The evolving management of three highly visible sports in the new Division I governance structure is starting to become clearer.
In June, the Division I Council approved the formation of three competition committees that will work closely with the Association-wide rules committees for men’s basketball, women’s basketball and football in a move intended to address questions that arose after the new structure took effect in 2015.
The competition committees will be part of the substructure of the Division I oversight committees for those sports, acting in an advisory capacity. While the oversight committees were created to promote the development of those sports, the competition committees will focus more specifically on the way games are played and presented. This includes playing rules, officiating, integrity of the game, technology, game-day operations, competitive balance and student-athlete health and safety, among others. Any recommendations the competition committees make will need to be approved by the oversight and playing rules committees.
The additions are expected to provide some clarity to committees’ responsibilities. When the Division I governance structure changed last year and the oversight committees were formed for the three sports, members of those committees had questions about the roles they were expected to play, particularly in the rules-making process for each sport.
Several ideas were examined during the discussion, including whether the rules committees for the sports of men’s basketball, women’s basketball and football should report directly to the oversight committees rather than to the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel, which consists of members from all three divisions and is responsible for approving all rules proposals for each of the Association’s sports.
Another concept that was examined involved adding more Division I members to the Playing Rules Oversight Panel, a change that would have required an Association-wide vote at the NCAA Convention, or having more Division I representation on the rules committees of the three sports.
In the end, it was decided that the formation of the competition committees would be the most prudent route to take.
“We want the Division I Football Oversight Committee to be responsive to the needs of the sport, and that includes being responsive to the needs of how the games are conducted, particularly how the rules are made and implemented,” says Bob Bowlsby, chair of the Football Oversight Committee and commissioner of the Big 12 Conference. “We will go forward with the best of intentions, and we will see how this works.”
Guidelines for filling the committees are being formalized, but a possible composition could include a few members from each of the oversight panels, who could then report back to the entire group about the progress in the rules-making process.
The Association-wide rules committees in each of the three sports consist of coaches and school and conference administrators who can develop rules proposals on their own or receive proposals from the membership, coaches associations or other related entities involved with each sport.
The panel, chaired by Jon Steinbrecher, commissioner of the Mid-American Conference and chair of the Playing Rules Oversight Panel, then provides the final review of proposals in the areas of student-athlete safety, financial impact and image of the game before they become official playing rules.
When it comes to rules changes in sports, one thing is certain: A lot of opinions are sure to be shared.
“The Playing Rules Oversight Panel is one of the more misunderstood committees in the NCAA,” Steinbrecher says. “It is a bit of a lightning rod at times. And that’s fine. Under the old and the new governance structure, it is that last place to provide an opportunity for broad review and seek broad feedback on the various rules proposals. The rules committees are filled with lots of people who have great expertise, and the competition committees will provide (an) extra layer of that and additional focus.”