By Michelle Brutlag Hosick
Division I members will contemplate changes to their decision-making processes and structures at the Division I Governance Dialogue, set for Jan. 16-17.
The dialogue is part of the 2014 NCAA Convention, which begins Jan. 15 in San Diego.
The event will provide a forum for the steering committee, a subcommittee of the Division I Board of Directors, to present a possible template for a new governance structure to the membership for reaction, discussion and critique.
“This meeting is part of a broader review process that has involved athletics directors, conference commissioners, faculty athletics representatives, coaches associations and other groups such as the Knight Commission,” said Nathan Hatch, steering committee chair and president of Wake Forest University. “Importantly, student-athletes have been involved as well.”
The steering committee’s model includes a Board of Directors, led by Division I presidents, and outlines several areas of possible autonomy for the five largest conferences, designed to allow schools in those conferences to use additional resources to benefit student-athletes.
Proposed areas for autonomy include the definition of a full scholarship, health and safety of student-athletes and agents and advisors.
The subcommittee also delineated possible areas of shared governance that would apply to all schools in Division I, including team scholarship limits and academic standards.
Under the proposed template, the board’s focus would be on strategy, policy and oversight of legislation and management. Several standing committees, each led by board members, would work with other Division I bodies and serve as a conduit between the membership and the board.
The committee is interested in feedback from members about including voices from outside the Association as voting or nonvoting members of the highest governing body. The Presidential Advisory Group, comprised of conferences not represented on the Division I board, would remain in place.
The board would be supported by a council that would be primarily populated by athletics directors. The group’s primary responsibilities would include legislative and championship issues, and members would collaborate closely with the board on strategic and policy issues. The council chair would participate in board meetings.
Feeding into the council would be standing groups focused on championships, legislative formulation and academic issues.
The legislative process, including who will sponsor rules changes and how, is yet to be defined, though subcommittee members favor a relatively high bar for passing rules within the areas of autonomy. The override opportunity would still exist, but likely with a higher threshold.
The board subcommittee members believe that a new, more formal committee nomination process, focused on competency, related experience and other factors for possible members, will be vital.
The presidents on the subcommittee based their model on a set of governing principles that have at their heart a commitment to the improvement of student-athlete well-being; the integration of athletics into higher education; and maintaining the athletics experience as part of a larger educational experience. Further, a main goal is to have a more streamlined and agile decision-making process.
The two-day dialogue will help refine the model and identify areas of agreement – and disagreement – through polling of attendees. The board and its restructuring steering committee will review membership feedback from the event and spend the next several months refining the model. Adoption of a new structure could begin as early as this spring.
“Scores of leaders across intercollegiate sports have stepped forward to express their deep commitment to Division I’s renewal,” Hatch said. “They do so with a manifest commitment to those student-athletes whom they are privileged to serve.”