Office of the President
This year, we lost a remarkable and inspiring leader in college sports: Pat Summitt. Pat is in the record books for being the winningest college basketball coach, but she was so much more than her win-loss record. Her true legacy is the way she coached her players for success off the court.
In her 38 seasons, Pat provided her students with the foundation to succeed in both sports and life. At the time of her retirement, every Volunteer who went through her program had graduated or was on track to graduate from college. Program alumni went on to use the life lessons they learned from her — the teamwork, generosity, work ethic — as they became parents, teachers, doctors, lawyers and professional athletes. As her players continue to succeed and change the world for the better, her impact endures.
We celebrate this type of impact above all — teaching as well as coaching. That’s the game changer for our students. And so, I will present the new Pat Summitt Award at the 2017 NCAA Convention. With this award, we look forward to highlighting an individual who, throughout his or her career in the membership, has demonstrated true devotion to the development of student-athletes and made a positive impact on their lives — someone who has helped make opportunity a reality for students. At its core, college sports is about opportunity. We want to provide student-athletes the best chance to shape their future, and our nation’s future, by earning a college degree. Throughout this year, we have taken steps to ensure college sports remain a pathway to opportunity for our students. We have prioritized our work around three pillars: academics, well-being and fairness. And we, as an association of more than 1,100 member schools, are committed to this goal.
In academics, graduation rates continue to climb; for African-American Division I men’s basketball players, the rate has increased by more than 30 points over the past 15 years. To further support our commitment to academic success, we adopted an updated revenue distribution model this fall. This model puts our money where our mission is, rewarding schools for academic performance.
For student-athlete well-being, the Board of Governors has established the Commission to Combat Campus Sexual Violence, following on a member-driven tool kit designed to help athletics departments address the issue on their campuses.
Our knowledge of the science of concussion has grown significantly in just two years because of the studies the NCAA and its members are conducting. Our concussion study with the U.S. Department of Defense continues to inform our work to make play safer, integrating science as we learn. At the 2017 NCAA Convention, I look forward to updating year-round football contact guidelines to help ensure the safety and physical health of our student-athletes, as well as Divisions II and III passing independent medical care legislation.
For fairness, we underlined our commitment to inclusive environments for all by withdrawing our 2016-17 championships from North Carolina because of the cumulative actions taken by the state concerning civil rights protections. The Board of Governors also endorsed a presidential pledge committing to diversity and gender inclusion in college sports.
Despite this progress, there is always more work to be done. We must honestly discuss how to help student-athletes balance the demands on their time. We will continue to support student-athletes’ mental health and remain laser-focused on issues of academic integrity. As we move forward, we must hold ourselves accountable and ask whether what we are doing is true to our charge of supporting student-athlete success, both on and off the court. That self-scrutiny means more tough decisions, tough debates, tireless introspection and, when change is needed, real commitment to change.