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Stay grounded in the core values

We are a diverse Association, and our unique viewpoints provide our organization with its greatest strengths. Every day, each of us lives the collegiate model. We run athletics programs of varying sizes, budgets and philosophies. But we are bound together by our commitment to athletics programs integrated within higher education. We are united by our core values. They make us strong. 

No matter the size of our stadiums, the number of scholarships we offer or the number of zeros in our bottom line, we share the same goal: to promote student-athlete success in the classroom, on the field and in life. Decisions that support that goal align us with the mission of higher education – where the student is always the priority.

We are committed to protecting the health and well-being, present and future, of our student-athletes. The NCAA’s mission is to be a leader in student-athlete health and safety, a responsibility shared by all member institutions. The Association recently established a Sport Science Institute, led by its first chief medical officer, nationally respected neurologist Brian Hainline. We created the institute to research and study ways to improve health and safety in collegiate athletics. Student-athlete well-being also encompasses our emphasis on academic standards. Knowing that almost all of our 450,000 student-athletes will go pro in something other than sports isn’t just a catchy tag line of a marketing campaign; it is the ball on which our eye is constantly tracking.

We regulate ethics and integrity. The members of the Association create and enforce the rules that maintain fair competition. The regulatory function focuses on rules to protect the integrity of the games and the quality of the student-athlete experience on and off the field. Conflicts of interest can permeate all three divisions. The compliance climate may not look the same in Division II as it does in Division III or Division I, but each has its own pressure points. We have a responsibility to provide student-athletes with the opportunity to compete in a principled, honest environment, regardless of division or resource level.

We define the games, make the playing rules and host national championships – 89 national championships in 23 sports across all three divisions each year. While there’s much less debate about what’s right-minded in this area, the fact is almost 50,000 student-athletes participate in NCAA championships every academic year. It’s a big part of what we do. This work reflects the appropriate values for everyone involved: student-athletes, administrators, member institutions, coaches, fans, broadcast partners, Corporate Champions/Partners and individual sports committees.

When you look at these three areas through a student-first lens, they are inextricably linked. For example, we cannot hold championships without an emphasis on ethics and the integrity of the game or without focusing on student-athlete well-being. Remove the student-athlete as the foundation, and then the three may become independent. You can have championships without higher education. You can expect coaches to be ethical. But if we’re not concentrating on student-athlete well-being, then what’s the point? 

Students are the center of higher education and, accordingly, the focal point of the NCAA. We need to keep student-athletes, their well-being and their education at the heart of what we do. It’s what makes us the NCAA and what differentiates us from the sports leagues. As a higher-education Association, we are focused on student-athlete development – not solely as athletes, but as human beings.

When we are faced with tough decisions, or when we don’t have consensus on an issue, we need to stay grounded in our core values and what keeps us together. If we hold those front and center, we will continue to maintain a healthy and active Association that cultivates what we care about most: the student-athlete.

Mark Emmert
NCAA President


Office of the President