By Michelle Brutlag Hosick
Late last month, a group of athletics directors, senior woman administrators and compliance practitioners representing all subdivisions of Division I gathered in Indianapolis to take the next step toward shaping the next phase of rules reform. The approach was a new one intended to bring together those who think about the rules on a high level and those who must apply them daily.
The tangible result was a group of ideas that will move through the cabinet structure this fall and be presented to the Legislative Council for possible sponsorship in October. More intangible was the flexibility, the openness to a new way of doing business that the meeting predicts.
Many of those who participated report feeling energized and hopeful for the future of Division I.
“I thought the group was very successful,” said Judy Van Horn, senior associate athletics director and senior woman administrator at the University of South Carolina. “You need the mile-high view of these critical issues as well as the perspective of people that have to actually implement (the rules). I think the interaction between the two has been missing in the process. On campus, I think there’s been strong communication (between the groups), but as part of the process, it’s been missing.”
Kirby Hocutt, athletics director at Texas Tech University and chair of the Leadership Council’s Football Recruiting Subcommittee, also supported the approach and believes the result – new ideas about financial aid and benefits for student-athletes as well as some new approaches to noncoaching personnel – made the time very worthwhile.
“So many issues are being discussed nationally at this time, it’s critical that practitioners and stakeholders who are dealing with the issues every day come together like we did and talk about our opinions and the national appetite for changes,” Hocutt said.
The appetite for rules changes among those in attendance (and the Division I membership as a whole) was affected by the pending review of the process for developing and adopting rules in Division I. Many participants in the late-August meeting expressed frustration with the current model. That frustration produced some skepticism about the work they did.
“In general, I’m glad I attended,” said University of Iowa athletics director Gary Barta, representing the Division I athletics directors. “I think it was healthy, but, trust is low. But I’m not going to complain and not try to help. I’m all in, I want to figure out ways that I can be a part of it.”
Barta and others said awareness of the governance review was present in every decision the group made. Many items were tabled for consideration after the new structure is in place, while a smaller number were deemed to have so much support they could be advanced even in the midst of the review.
Joseph D’Antonio, senior associate commissioner of the Big East Conference, said the support for and conversations about some of the concepts would not be substantively changed even if the process changes, but the group was cognizant of the review in its decision-making.
“The only way you can analyze a change in legislation is by taking into consideration that the review you’re doing now could ultimately fall under a different system or mode for that legislation in the future,” D’Antonio said. “We’d be doing ourselves an injustice if we didn’t realize that was the case as we looked at these concepts. We can speculate what those changes might be, but nobody really knows what it’s going to look like.”
After the cabinets review the ideas and provide feedback, the Legislative Council and Leadership Council will identify proposals to sponsor for a vote in January 2014. The sponsored proposals will be published for full membership review in the Official Notice, which will be published in November.
The concepts began, though, with a representative group of members talking around a table about the practical application of the proposed changes and the broader impact that would result. The group made some interesting discoveries about themselves and each other in the process.
“When we got into that meeting room, I think there was a presumption that we were all on opposite ends of the spectrum. We had some pretty notable ADs and senior woman administrators,” said Mary Mulvenna, associate commissioner for compliance at the America East Conference. “I think there is more common ground than we think. I do think there are going to be some issues that are critical and will have to be hashed out and then kicked out to the membership, but the willingness of the NCAA to change and be more inclusive and transparent will be well-received.”
Concepts related to coaching and noncoaching personnel, financial aid, student-athlete benefits and recruiting concepts born out of the proposals suspended earlier this year will be presented to the Legislative Council, along with feedback from the relevant cabinets, on October 21. Concepts related to the work of the Football Recruiting Subcommittee and those related to playing and practice seasons will be presented to the Leadership Council, along with cabinet feedback, on October 23-24.
The membership will receive the Official Notice in November, and schools are encouraged to use the traditional methods for providing feedback through their conferences. Other proposals of association-wide importance will be included also.
The items will follow the regular governance process, with the Legislative Council casting its initial votes in January and reserving final votes on items that don’t receive a 5/8 majority of support for April.
Ideas being vetted by the governance structure
Definition of countable coach (as a precursor to further discussions related to noncoaching personnel
Allowing schools to provide an unlimited meal plan for student-athletes
Allowing schools to pay for more student fees
Permit athletics directors to delegate the responsibility for signing the squad lists
Eliminating the noncounter certification
Allowing schools to provide meals in conjunction with practice and other noncompetitive events
Allowing schools to provide unlimited snacks