Office of the President
Those of us in higher education think of the fall as a time for fresh beginnings. Students return to campus, new seasons of competition begin and homework becomes a nighttime staple. The season of homecoming is in full swing, and midterms are already on the horizon.
A new academic year brings another year of opportunity. While students were preparing over the summer for the upcoming academic year and sports seasons, leaders in college sports were getting ready, too. University presidents, athletics administrators, faculty members and student-athletes studied and debated some of the most pressing issues facing college sports. These diverse, influential voices came from all areas of the country to join in the Division I Strategic Summit. They discussed some of the challenging questions facing the Division I membership: How do we define the Division I model of athletics? What should the student-athlete experience be? How might we address student-athlete time demands and balance related to academics and sport? What can Division I do to help students translate their skills to life after sport?
Preparing to move forward on these and other important topics also required the governance leadership to revisit the values established by their predecessors. Summit participants unanimously reaffirmed Division I’s commitment to these principles:
- Students are students first.
- Students compete against other students.
- The health and welfare of college athletes is paramount.
- Student-athletes should be prepared for a career and life after sports.
- Education is the primary mission.
- The educational value of sports should be promoted.
It’s critical to make sure we establish our shared values before taking on weighty issues that will shape the future of college sports.
Throughout the summit, participants heard directly from college students whose thoughtful contributions were often among the most insightful in the room. As always, their presence was a poignant reminder of why we do what we do. While Division I wrangles with how to address critical issues in the years to come, the students’ voices and lasting contributions are a reminder of what we can accomplish when placing student-athlete welfare at the forefront of decision-making. Beyond the summit, the student voice is now a key component of all levels of governance across all three divisions.
As a result of those conversations, the participants agreed on strategic principles, which were later endorsed by the Division I Board of Directors and will help define the Division I strategic agenda for the next three to five years. Several working groups have been established to engage the governance structure in putting the principles into operation. These groups comprise university presidents, practitioners and students – a diverse mix of voices critical to ensuring that our actions align with our values and we focus on what’s best for our students.