The results of the NCAA’s Presidential Retreat exceeded even my wildest expectations. I expected clear topics to study with deadlines for proposals around this time next year. I never expected actual solutions to emerge, and the deadlines to flesh those solutions out into NCAA legislation beginning as soon as October.
Presidential initatives have a mixed history of success because once the presidents start down a path, most of the work is left to athletics administrators. They have their own mix of short- and long-term distractions, and hear more of the objections coming from coaches and boosters. Many a grandiose vision has failed to be reduced to a new group of words in the Division I Manual.
One of the main reasons the NCAA members struggle with this is that the governing of college athletics is mostly a part-time job. In fact, given that administrators and coaches who serve on NCAA committees are not paid for their service, calling it a hobby would not be too far off. This slows down processes of reform. It also means an athletic director who just listened to his football coach complain about losing recruits may show up and decide the fate of phone call deregulation.
In order to better seize moments like this when the NCAA members are geared up for reform and to great more of them, it’s time for the governing of college athletics to become a full-time job. To put it another way, the NCAA needs politicians.
Conferences would select someone to go live in Indianapolis and represent the conference full-time. That person would be paid by the NCAA and would serve a fixed term, maybe three or four years. The conference would need the NCAA’s approval to remove the legislator. This grants them a bit of independence.
These NCAA politicans would fulfill most of the functions currently carried out by staff members of NCAA member schools. They would vote on legislation, serve on committees, provide guidance to NCAA staff members, and hear appeals. They, along with outside members, would form the Committee on Infractions and Infractions Appeals Committee.
Instead of committees meeting three or four times a year in person, they could meet monthly, or even weekly. When urgent issues such as the preceived loophole in the Cam Newton case arise, they could be addressed in a matter of weeks, rather than having to wait roughly a year.
Two current groups in the rule-making structure would likely remain: an expanded Board of Directors including a president from every conference and the Leadership Council. But their jobs would no longer be to study issues and propose actual legislation. Their mission would be to give direction to Diviison I’s new congress. And all of the sport-specific committees would likely still remain.
The presidents have repaired a bit of the NCAA’s image, for now at least, by articulating a more detailed reform plan. Imagine the gains that could be made if everyone knew that representatives of those presidents were ready to tackle these issues full-time starting on Monday, rather than somewhat sporadically over the coming months.
The opinions expressed on this blog are the author’s and the author’s alone, and are not endorsed by the NCAA or any NCAA member institution or conference. This blog is not a substitute for a compliance office.