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Membership helps shape rulebook

By Michelle Brutlag Hosick

A vital part of the work of the Rules and Enforcement working groups has been collecting feedback from the membership about both the concepts and the more developed ideas the groups are considering. The feedback has shaped the way the groups work, helping focus attention on certain ideas and away from other ones as well as adjusting the timeline as necessary.

“Hearing from the membership is a vital part of this process,” said Clemson President James Barker, chair of the Rules Working Group. “Reshaping the rulebook requires help from everyone -- coaches to athletics administrators to presidents. We are listening to the membership, and we look forward to hearing more from our colleagues.”

“It’s a membership organization. If we want this reform movement to work, then we have to provide feedback. Even if it’s to say, ‘Yes, we support this change,’ at least we know there’s support for the concept,” said Northeast Conference Commissioner Noreen Morris. She and a staff member generally review each document released by the working groups and formulate general conference positions, which they then submit to their membership for discussion and adjustments before they provide feedback to the working groups.

Morris, also chair of the Leadership Council, said this process is vastly preferable to the “old days” when rules would be passed at Convention by thousands of delegates who were never always sure of the implications of everything they were voting on.

“We reacted instead of being proactive. Now we can be proactive and part of the solution,” she said. “We’ve got to get involved on the front end. If you wait until it’s passed, it’s too late.”

Some comments submitted articulate uncertainty about whether the input from the membership will be considered by the working groups, a concern that the working groups take seriously.

Jo Potuto, chair of the Football Bowl Subdivision Faculty Athletics Representatives organization and FAR at Nebraska, said providing feedback to help formulate the rules is a duty of membership and she believes the working groups are taking the membership’s thoughts into account.

She compared the feedback process to teaching evaluations provided by students at the end of a course.

“Students tend to feel if they have a comment or a criticism and it’s not acted on that they haven’t been listened to. That’s not true. I read the evaluations and think about them, about how I’m doing things. Sometimes, even after giving it a lot of thought, I still think this is the way we should do it,” she said. “Accepting and considering feedback doesn’t mean you are going to act on it the way the person providing it thinks you should.”

One piece of advice Potuto and her board of directors had for the working groups is to adjust the timeline in order to allow the membership to provide the best feedback possible. She said the FARs have been concerned that the concepts and ideas put forward haven’t been concrete enough to offer real input.

The working groups are listening – once expected to complete their work by October, the Rules Working Group anticipates the first official votes won’t be cast on the first set of proposals until January, though significant work will be done in advance of the October meeting to give the membership time to consider more tangible proposals. Similarly, the Enforcement Working Group had anticipated adoption of their package in August. Instead, the group members will present their penultimate recommendations to the Board at that time and allow the membership several months to provide final comments before adoption in October.

Potuto acknowledged that even a slowing of the process won’t be enough for everyone.

“If there isn’t a feeling that there was sufficient opportunity to comment, there will be the feeling that people have been cut out at the end of the process. That said, there will be people who sit and do nothing and say nothing until it’s codified,” she said. “Then they’ll say they don’t like it and wouldn’t have done it.”

The working group members hope those reactions are minimized by the amount of outreach they’ve done and the extension of the timeline. When considering feedback, the groups will keep their charges in mind – creating a multi-level violation reporting and penalty structure, focusing enforcement efforts on breaches of the NCAA’s most enduring values and crafting rules that are enforceable, nationally significant and keep student-athlete well-being paramount.