Office of the President

The evolution of success

This fall will mark five years at the NCAA for me. Suffice it to say, much has changed in that time. Across all three divisions, the membership has taken on difficult and, indeed, contentious issues across nearly every topic addressed in our constitution and bylaws.

Change has taken the form of new voices joining the table, new benefits for student-athletes, new governance models, new academic standards, new health and safety guidelines, a new enforcement structure and new approaches to championships. And our membership has revised, updated or eliminated many rules.

We still have work ahead of us. Time demands on college athletes, for example, must be addressed. We know from the Growth, Opportunities, Aspirations and Learning of Students study that time demands are a key element in how student-athletes define their college experience. Across sport and division, it appears many were spending more time in total on the combination of athletics and academics in 2010 than they did four years prior. So we will need to look closely at what we find with the 2015 GOALS study responses when released this fall, as those data may help us map a path forward on this thorny issue.

As we proceed, we will continue to receive plenty of help from external forces in focusing on areas of needed change because it is not only our world that has evolved. The sentiment of the broader public about all institutions – whether government, organized religion, education or business – has shifted a great deal in recent years.

The expectations of transparency, speed of action and accountability to which all institutions are held are higher now, rendering many tried-and-true practices and processes all but obsolete. To keep up, much less stay ahead of the needs of the 21st century student-athlete, we must continue to evolve the NCAA.

I believe we are well-positioned to do so. The dynamic within the Association feels different to me than it has over my tenure as president. In fact, it feels different than any other time in my career on campus. Our membership is engaged on a level that I simply have not seen before. The dynamic of shared responsibility and a willingness to consider different perspectives is alive and well as I engage with our leadership across the Association. The tone of conversation is different, and as a result, the outcomes could be different.

This is key to keeping our evolution rooted in what we are trying to accomplish. With so many valid points of view and distinct needs represented even within subdivisions, membership engagement in the work of the NCAA is what keeps the focus on our core goal: providing the best possible opportunities and experiences for college students both on the field and off.

In the space of national policy-making, measuring success against such a goal can feel challenging, as the college experience is inherently individual. How, then, do we draw a clear line between decisions and how they feel to student-athletes?

Graduation Success Rates and Academic Progress Rates provide important context and useful metrics to evaluate the academic part of the college experience. When in doubt, though, the best answer is often the simplest one: Just ask.

Integrating student-athletes into all levels of our governance structure is, without question, the most important step we have taken toward even more informed decision-making. Because when it comes to defining success, they are the best-equipped to show us what that looks like.

Mark Emmert,
NCAA President