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Future of Division I will be discussed by key groups at Convention

Sport organizational structure, revenue distribution panels set for in-person talks Jan. 12

The 2016 NCAA Convention will provide a venue for work on the future of Division I, with the first in-person meetings of both the Values-Based Revenue Distribution group and the Sport Organizational Structure group scheduled for Jan. 12 in San Antonio.

The Division I Board of Directors created both groups to address issues identified at the Division I Strategic Summit, held in Indianapolis in August. Both groups have been meeting via conference call to review relevant materials, consult with outside groups such as the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, and set goals for making final recommendations to the board.

The Values-Based Revenue Distribution group will work to ensure the Division I revenue distribution plan, which determines a formula for distributing NCAA championships earnings to member schools, reflects and enhances the division’s commitments, with particular emphasis on academic standards and student-athlete academic performance.

Christine Copper, faculty athletics representative at the U.S. Naval Academy, serves as co-chair of the group with University of Northern Iowa President William Ruud. Copper said group members represent a broad swath of Division I, and each person brings a different viewpoint to the conversation.

“To date, it has been encouraging that the members have fully participated in the discussions and have not been afraid to voice their opinions,” Copper said. “I believe we have done a good job in initially identifying core values, noting key concerns some in the membership have about any changes to the revenue distribution model, and in identifying topics for conversation going forward.”

The Sport Organizational Structure working group intends to define the requirements of Division I membership and the components that make up what Division I leaders are calling “the Division I experience,” with an emphasis on sport sponsorship and how a student-athlete’s college experience should look. Once defined, the working group will consider how much flexibility can exist within those components without compromising the overall goals of Division I.

Clifton Smart, president of Missouri State University, co-chairs the group with Randall Woodson, chancellor of North Carolina State University. Smart said his group has made good progress, but an in-person meeting will be more productive than a teleconference.

“We have agreed to the framework for analysis,” Smart said. “We have a good cross-section of the membership involved, and I think our committee is prepared to tackle this tough issue.”

Revenue distribution options considered

To guide its work, the revenue distribution group has requested from NCAA staff a variety of data, including the potential impact various academic criteria would have on how revenues are distributed to Division I schools, as well as other potential models for distribution. Copper said she can’t predict what recommendations could come until the group sees the data, but its members are aware of the implications of any changes to the current distribution model.

“We anticipate considering a number of options that could include modest but values-driven changes to current distribution; innovative and thoughtful ideas regarding future revenue increases and some consideration of how the division distributes supplemental distributions,” she said. “If we are able to study a few models of what different changes would look like in terms of dollars per conference or per school … I believe we will be able to begin to narrow the possible changes to the model that we may ultimately recommend to the board.”

The group hopes to make recommendations to the board later this year. Members acknowledge the gravity of their work, Copper said.

“The values of an organization are only as strong and believable as the actions of that body,” she said, “especially in the area of finances.”

What does it mean to belong to Division I?

The Sport Organizational Structure group is working to balance the possibility of a more flexible membership structure with a desire to preserve the quality and significance of what it means to be in Division I. Woodson said that while members are open to a discussion about changing what it means to sponsor a sport, some are concerned about unintended consequences of a more open membership philosophy.

“Our approach to this discussion is to put everything on the table and be open and honest in our deliberations,” he said.

Particular emphasis will be placed on opportunities to enhance the Division I student-athlete experience, add student-athlete participation opportunities, improve the academic performance of student-athletes and create scheduling and other efficiencies.

This group also hopes to have recommendations to the board later in the year.