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How one conference is putting the new Presidential Forum report into practice

The Division I Presidential Forum approved the Charting the Course report in January, capping a year of preparing a vision for what the student-athlete experience should look like along every stage of the journey through college sports.

The 32 Division I presidents who make up the forum advise the Division I Board of Directors on strategic issues. The mission of their report is to guide schools and conferences on the path to ensure “the optimal experience for student-athletes, from before they enroll, through their college years, to life beyond graduation.”

For Jessica Everhart, assistant commissioner for compliance and student services at the West Coast Conference, the vision sounded familiar. Leaders in her conference — particularly senior woman administrators and faculty athletics representatives — had been involved in independent discussions about many of the issues addressed in the Presidential Forum’s report.

“We had a bunch of different groups within our governance structure having really pertinent conversations about the student-athlete experience,” Everhart says. “But we didn’t have a way to connect the dots to make sure they were part of the same conversation and sharing best practices.”

As a next step to the Presidential Forum’s work, national office staff is compiling member schools’ ideas for innovative programming and best practices and NCAA resources that can be used to help Division I institutions carry out the plan. But while that work is ongoing, the West Coast Conference is launching its new companion plan, the Student-Athlete Experience Model, which takes to heart the lessons of Charting the Course.

The conference program will provide an online portal through which schools can share and track best practices, compare campus resources, find NCAA resources, and gauge the current opportunities and impediments student-athletes encounter. Over time, the information sharing could be used to adjust West Coast Conference policies or legislation.

“Now it’s just a matter of making it operational and getting some of those day-to-day administrators who are more likely living and breathing some of these best practices to start utilizing it,” Everhart says. “From there, as a conference we’d like to see if there are any trends we can identify or additional opportunities for data collection that we as a conference can help facilitate.”

The West Coast Conference Student-Athlete Experience Model breaks the student-athlete experience into eight components:

Academics: academic performance, major selection, study abroad. Possible resources for this area include NCAA Academic Performance Program reports and conference academic comparisons.

Athletics: competitiveness, conference championships experience, postseason experience, competition abroad. Possible resources include the conference championships survey.

Leadership: governance engagement, leadership curriculum, representation on student-athlete advisory committees. Possible resources include the West Coast Conference Leadership Summit, the NCAA Student-Athlete Leadership Forum, the national Division I SAAC and the conference SAAC Annual Report.

Well-being: mental health, physical health, nutrition, sleep, sexual assault awareness, time management. Possible resources include information culled from the NCAA Sport Science Institute.

#WCCRepresent: community service, sportsmanship. Possible resources include SAAC involvement, the NCAA sportsmanship awards and conference SAAC awards.

Postgraduation: career preparation, internships, postgraduate scholarships, financial awareness. Possible resources include the NCAA financial tool iGrad, the NCAA Career in Sports Forum and West Coast Conference and NCAA postgraduate scholarships.

Extracurricular Activities: Greek life, the arts, jobs. Resources for this category will likely come from the campuses.

Inclusion and Diversity: individual core values, faith, family, student-athlete activism. Resources include the NCAA Common Ground program and campus ministries.

Charting the Course

A report approved by the Division I Presidential Forum in January lays out a pathway to help schools make values-based decisions along every step up of student-athletes’ college experience, “from before they enroll, through their college years, to life beyond graduation.”

It aims to ensure:

  • That student-athletes have the opportunity to be fully integrated into all aspects of the collegiate experience, including co-curricular, social and civic engagement.
  • That all student-athletes, including those who aspire to compete professionally, are equipped with realistic expectations as to professional athletics careers and are afforded the career development and planning necessary to inform decisions, including post-professional career options and the opportunity to return to college to complete a degree.
  • That all student-athletes are offered experiences conducted in a safe environment that fosters physical and mental health and well-being.
  • That schools, employers, parents and, most importantly, student-athletes understand and appreciate the educational value of participating in sports and take advantage of the opportunity to translate skills developed through athletics into attributes that shape their lives.
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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