Office of the President

This year has challenged college basketball and college sports. The indictments filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York cut across the foundation of what we value at the NCAA. It was apparent to the NCAA Board of Governors and me that to fully address the basketball issue, we needed independent experts with diverse backgrounds and stellar reputations to examine the landscape and equip the Association with tools to implement transformative change

The Commission on College Basketball, chaired by Dr. Condoleezza Rice, took its mission seriously and delivered its recommendations in April after six months of intensive study. The advice we received rightfully painted us into a corner: We face a crisis that requires swift and collective action. As an association, we cannot react to this situation as if it were business as usual. This crisis affords us the opportunity to initiate sweeping reforms that will transform college basketball and positively impact student-athletes. We cannot waste that opportunity.

Paramount in the commission’s recommendations is the necessity to uphold and repair the collegiate model. College sports are for students to compete in, not professionals. The NCAA’s reason for being is simple: to support students who participate in college sports while earning meaningful college degrees. This symbiotic relationship between higher education and athletics benefits students and colleges and is unique in the world.

While recognizing this special connection, we also need to acknowledge that it’s not the right path for all athletes. If a college degree isn’t the goal for someone but professional basketball is, why should anyone make a young man go to college if he doesn’t want to? He should be allowed to make that choice. We need to continue working with our colleagues to make realistic direct pathways to professional sports for young people who are not interested in being college students. We also shouldn’t penalize our college students by pulling their eligibility when they test the professional waters and learn they would be better off remaining in college. Allowing a student to stay in college to continue an education and grow as an athlete is a win-win situation for the student and the school.

The problems we see manifested in college basketball begin much earlier in life. We need more transparency in youth sports to ensure athletes receive accurate information and that adults do not take advantage of them. Having access to agents would be helpful in this process, and we need to work together to ensure agents are informing student-athletes ethically. If bad actors do arise within our purview, we need to hold them accountable. We also need to improve our adjudicative process, so it is more transparent and efficient for all parties.

The commission also tasked us with adding independent board members to our highest-ranking committee, the Board of Governors. All healthy organizations have independent members, and I look forward to working with these individuals, who will undoubtedly provide a different perspective on college sports.

Implementing these new initiatives is an imperative step toward restoring public trust in college sports. I’m deeply proud that NCAA members and the national office staff have continued to conduct all our other affairs smoothly during these critical months. But now is the time to set high expectations for ourselves and be an example to our student-athletes. We owe it to them to get this right.

Mark Emmert
NCAA President