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Division I groups present board with redesign ideas

From coaches to athletics directors to university presidents, those affected by changes weigh in

By Michelle Brutlag Hosick

They came to Indianapolis from every corner of the country — Massachusetts to California and points in between — and from every discipline in college athletics: athletics directors, faculty, coaches, administrators, presidents and student-athletes.

Board chair Nathan Hatch, president at Wake Forest University, voices the goal of the governance review and how it will help student-athletes.

And though their viewpoints sometimes differed on specifics, the groups who addressed the Division I Board of Directors and Presidential Advisory Group members Tuesday echoed the same theme: The needs of student-athletes must be the top priority.

Board chair Nathan Hatch, president at Wake Forest University, noted that the conversations showed how participants share many of the same values and a commitment to working together in support of student-athletes.

“We are all committed to the well-being of student-athletes, the importance of amateurism in college sports, how we can have fair competition in ways that really enhance student-athlete well-being,” Hatch said, “and how can we do that collaboratively, but also taking into account the difference between institutions and conferences.”

The nine groups who were invited to present to the Board and PAG their thoughts on the governance redesign included athletics directors, compliance administrators, faculty, coaches associations, student-athletes, commissioners, ethnic minority administrators, female administrators and representatives from the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics. They presented everything from high-level touchstones that should guide the redesign to actual nuts-and-bolts ideas for the way Division I’s governance structure should look.

Everyone agreed that the current structure is flawed. The Board of Directors is sometimes too involved in minutiae and should focus more on setting a vision for Division I, and the trust between leadership and the various representative groups has been at times tenuous. However, many participants in Tuesday’s meeting were encouraged by the level of commitment from the others and the collaboration they witnessed.

Purdue University Athletics Director Morgan Burke discusses the need for change and why student-athletes are vital to the process.

“We have some struggles right now … We just haven’t been as nimble and as quick, and there’s frustration,” said Morgan Burke, athletics director at Purdue University and president of the 1A Athletics Directors Association. “There’s just dissatisfaction. When you have this much dissatisfaction, you have a chance for positive change.”

The groups showed consensus on a number of issues, including the need to rebuild trust in the governance structure, more transparency in the governing process and the ability for some schools to have autonomy to make decisions about how they financially support student-athletes. Most groups agreed that retaining all schools in one division is important, though some did advocate for an additional subdivision or division.

Further, everyone agreed that preserving the current revenue distribution and ability to compete in championships, as well as shared academic standards, was important.

One of the chief points centered on forming a governance structure that would restore trust. To many, that means getting the right people at the table when decisions are made – including student-athletes. The people selected to serve must have the right experience and background, go through a vetting process and be prepared to have discussions without regard to conference or sport affiliation if necessary, the representatives agreed.

Madeline Salamone, chair of the Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and a member of the women’s lacrosse team at Duke University, said those kinds of conversations already occur at SAAC meetings.

“We wanted to convey to the Board how much student-athletes can add to the conversation and what our value is,” Salamone said. “We are an engaged group; we have been an engaged group. We’re not going anywhere. Asking for our input is the most valuable thing any cabinet or committee in the organization can do. We look forward to having a continued positive role.”

Salamone’s sentiment was echoed by many who made presentations to the Board, including Burke..

“I firmly believe that the young people who come out of our universities, with the combined academic and athletic experience (they have), are the kinds of people who will make a difference in the 21st century,” Burke said. “This is a great generation, but they don’t trust a lot of people … At the end of the day we have to get their trust. The coaches, the athletics administrators on campus work hard to do that.”

The Board of Directors and Presidential Advisory Group will continue meeting Wednesday to discuss what they heard and begin charting a possible agenda for January’s Division I Governance Dialogue, to be held in conjunction with the NCAA Convention in San Diego.