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Forward Thinking

Presidential Forum’s first goal: Shape student-athletes’ experience from enrollment to graduation

For a detailed description of the NCAA governance process, see the fall 2015 issue of Champion magazine or visit

When the Division I governance structure was revamped in 2014, one question remained regarding the future of a group designed to provide a voice for presidents from conferences not represented on the Division I Board of Directors. The restructuring presented an opportunity to reconfigure that group as well. Members created a group with a completely different membership and significantly broader goals. Champion recently reached out to Presidential Forum chair Kay Norton, president of the University of Northern Colorado, to ask her to explain the group, its goals and how it plans to achieve them:

Champion Magazine: What is the purpose of the presidential forum?

Kay Norton: The governance structure of the NCAA is primarily action-oriented toward legislation and the legislative process. The purpose of the forum is to provide a venue for presidents from all 32 Division I conferences to talk about bigger-picture issues in order to advise the DI governing board. This is an opportunity for us to assist the board in thinking about not only specific legislative matters but also the larger issues we all face.

CM: What are the group’s goals?

KN: We are focusing on the student-athlete experience, taking a broad three- to five-year look at how we are explicitly demonstrating the value of collegiate athletics and fulfilling our promises to student-athletes so that they are fully integrated as students at our institutions.

CM:  How is the forum working to accomplish those goals?

KN: We developed a framework focusing on the student-athlete experience in three segments: the pre-college experience, the experience on campus and the post collegiate experience. This aligns with what I believe most of the presidents are experiencing on campus: Given the holistic nature of higher education, how do we address expectations prior to enrollment, during enrollment and then after graduation?

CM: Why did the group choose to approach its goals in this way?

KN: Presidents often have many eloquent things to say about philosophy and policy, and in the first year of our existence we had a number of conversations of that sort. But we needed to have some means to focus our efforts and conversations so they could inform what we do on campuses and what the Association can foster and support as an organization. We are all painfully aware of the public relations issues that intercollegiate athletics faces, the considerable skepticism about our commitment to the student-athletes and whether we are fulfilling our obligation to them. This is a chance for us to demonstrate the powerful, positive role of intercollegiate athletics in the lives not just of the student-athletes, but of the institutions as well.

CM: What role are student-athletes playing in this process?

KN: We had several student-athletes from a wide variety of sports at our October meeting.  They gave powerful presentations about their experiences in those three phases. They talked about the recruitment experience, their competitive experience, and then to what extent they believed that they have had experiences that were setting them up for their future. That insight directly from student-athletes is invaluable.

CM: What do you hope is the result?

KN: I hope the result is that we make progress toward delivering on our promises to student-athletes, and that we begin to make progress toward a better public understanding of what is the true nature, value and purpose of sports at higher education institutions.

About Champion

Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.

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