Back in October, the Board of Directors took unprecedented action when they adopted new initial eligibility standards, a $2,000 miscellaneous expense allowance, multi-year scholarships, and a new men’s basketball recruiting model. It was so unprecedented that the membership pushed back with overrides of both the expense allowance and multi-year scholarships, going so far as to suspend the $2,000 stipend for the time being.
By comparison, the actions of the Board of Directors at the 2012 NCAA Convention were relatively mundane. The Board refused to implement a few of the ideas suggested by the Resource Allocation Working Group, including scholarship cuts to football and women’s basketball and the end of foreign tours. The Board adopted a moratorium on increases in the length of seasons and the number of games and ordered a study on appropriate limits, with a special focus on basketball. And they completed the work of the Leadership Council by adopting a model for on-campus tryouts and summer practice in men’s basketball.
The group missing from all this action is the Legislative Council. Bold new ideas were adopted without passing them through the primary lawmaking body of the NCAA. In addition, at the request of one working group, the Legislative Council tabled 50 of the 82 active proposals. The Legislative Council will spend another year on the sidelines as well, after the Board of Directors agreed to suspend the legislative process to allow the Rules Working Group to complete their work of picking apart and putting back together the NCAA Division I Manual.
Freezing the Legislative Council out is responsible for a significant amount of the backlash against the Presidential Retreat initiatives. The reason is simple. On the Legislative Council, all 31 Division I conferences have a representative. On the Board of Directors, all 11 FBS conferences have a representative, but the other 20 FCS and non-football conferences share 7 representatives. In addition, none of the Presidential Retreat working groups have representation from all conferences and some conferences have no representatives on any of the groups.
Since 2010, there has been a push by FCS and non-football leagues to expand the Board of Directors to include all conferences, lead by the Northeast Conference and Big South Conference. That would create a more representative 31-member board, potentially one which would have the same type of weighted voting as the Legislative Council. But that creates an unwieldy and parallel legislative process where a proposal has to pass through two bodies representing the same group of institutions, one populated by presidents and the other populated by athletic administrators, who are expected to be working at the direction of their presidents.
The solution then is to get rid of the Legislative Council and expand the Board of Directors to include all conferences. Voting could be weighted or not. The Student-Athlete Advisory Committee could be given a representative for a nice, even 32. Individual schools still have a chance to be heard through the override process.
This would be the most visible symbol of the push toward presidential control of college athletics. The primary law-making body would be composed of presidents. The legislative cycle could even be disbanded or tweaked to allow issues to be addressed more quickly. And the override process gives athletic administrators the chance to pitch their individual president (who controls the requests and the vote) on that school’s objections to a proposal.
The other chief benefit would come after the new Division I Manual is introduced to the world about 18 months from now. The challenge is not to make a new manual that is easier to understand and only focuses on serious issues. The hard part is to keep the manual that way. Presidents are more likely to only take up serious issues of national importance. You would expect the Board of Directors to adopt fewer proposals that address purely competitive equity issues brought up by only a few conferences.
The downside is the lack of an expert body to vet legislation, since the Legislative Council is composed mostly of athletic administrators with a compliance background and the occasional faculty athletics representative. But the Leadership Council (composed mostly of athletic directors) would still exist. And the National Association for Athletics Compliance (NAAC) or some new NCAA committee could act in an advisory capacity for the presidents on the board.
The presidential retreat initiatives are asking NCAA members not to just to accept some changes, but to accept a new way of doing business. Since the work of fixing and improving college athletics is an ongoing process, that change should be manifested in changes to way NCAA rules are made. If so, the current appetite for reform has a chance to gather enough momentum to stop being a movement and start being the new business as usual.
Insert Six Million Dollar Man reference here. “We can rebuild it. We have the technology. We can make it better than it was before. Better, thinner, clearer.” ↩
The Pioneer Football League also has a representative who votes on FCS issues only. ↩
The conferences with BCS automatic qualification and Conference USA get three votes. The other FBS conferences get 1.5 votes. All other conferences get 1.2 votes. ↩
The Collegiate Model-Rules Working Group has already stated an intention to work with NAAC in crafting the new manual. ↩