Some thoughts on the Division I Presidential Retreat, which begins today in Indianapolis:
- Divisions I and II have developed excellent quantitative measures of graduation outcomes, but the qualitative information is harder to come by. The principle of institutional autonomy dictates that each member school is responsible for policing its own curriculum, but it’s hard to get around commonly held attitudes that certain athletes are routed to easy majors and accommodating professors. If the criticism is true, then the problem needs to be addressed; if it’s not true, then there’s a collective responsibility to demonstrate that the educational experience of student-athletes reasonably mirrors that of other students (emphasis on “reasonably”).
- I understand the frustration of the largest programs and how they view efforts to legislate a “level playing field.” They do have a multitude of advantages, including resources, and if they can create a better experience for their student-athletes, more power to them. That said, the other side of the blade is a winnowing effect on the number of programs that can keep up. It’s not necessarily a problem now, but what will things look like 10 or 20 years from now – especially if the economy continues to falter? There’s a balance to be found here.
- A simpler rules book is among the most promising objectives of this meeting, but meaningful change in this area will require collective acceptance that every rule cannot be sharpened or interpreted to perfection. Considering the competitive, financial and legal complexities of the real world, that’s a big ask. Still, few improvements would serve the Association as well as streamlined rules that could be better explained and defended.
One additional observation: There is a sad juxtaposition occurring with this meeting. Former Indiana University President John Ryan, the original chair of the NCAA President Commission, died Saturday. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Friday on what would have been his 82nd birthday.
Ryan was a great leader, both for the NCAA and IU. The NCAA was making presidential leadership out of whole cloth when Ryan assumed his Presidents Commission role in 1984. He took on the task with energy, knowledge and collegiality − and ultimately left a big mark on the Association.