Board asks subcommittee to develop structure plans
Strong sense of unity guides discussions
By Michelle Brutlag Hosick
No matter what the new structure of Division I looks like in the future, the Board of Directors determined Wednesday the format will be built around the core value that intercollegiate athletics is an integral part of higher education.
The presidents empowered a subcommittee to develop some alternative plans the membership can discuss at the Division I Governance Dialogue, to be held Jan. 16-17 in conjunction with the NCAA Convention in San Diego.
The steering committee, a subcommittee of the board, will guide the formation of concepts for governance redesign over the next several months and lead a division-wide discussion of the ideas in January.
Steering committee members are:
Nathan Hatch, board chair and president at Wake Forest University
Rita Cheng, chair of the Presidential Advisory Group and chancellor at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale
Gene Block, president of the University of California, Los Angeles
Michael Drake, chancellor of the University of California, Irvine
David Leebron, president of Rice University
Harris Pastides, president of the University of South Carolina
Kirk Schulz, president of Kansas State University
The concepts will be based on the feedback received from a wide variety of people who brought their ideas to the board during a meeting on Tuesday. In addition, the steering committee will consider input from the Division I Leadership Council and results from a membership survey. That survey remains open until Nov. 15.
“(The discussion) was very productive,” board chair Nathan Hatch, president at Wake Forest University, said. “There’s a lot of unity in what the NCAA is about.”
One point on which the board members agreed: Any new structure must emphasize how athletics help prepare student-athletes for success after college.
The board agreed with many of the key elements identified in Tuesday’s conversation with other stakeholders, including:
- The preference of most people, including athletics directors and presidents, is to remain together in a single division. This would include an altered rules-making process that allows some flexibility for schools to make decisions in the interest of their student-athletes. Board members continue to believe that presidents should lead the division.
- The board should be more focused on overarching strategy and vision for the division and less focused on day-to-day operational activities.
- A more transparent, fast-moving, streamlined and simple governance process is needed.
- Representation within the governance structure on all groups will continue to be an important factor, with an ideal model including a broad swath of voices from within – and possibly outside – the membership. Re-engaging athletics directors and solidifying the role of student-athletes were top concerns.
Most likely, Hatch said, Division I will remain intact. The idea of subdividing isn’t completely off the table, he acknowledged, but most schools seem committed to maintaining the strength of a whole Division I.
“We haven’t foreclosed any option, but there was general agreement that we will try to stay together as a single division,” he said. “The magic will be if the division can come up with certain ways larger, more-resourced institutions can have a degree of flexibility.”
Over the next several months, the steering committee will continue to collect feedback and begin to develop plans in preparation for the Division I Governance Dialogue in January. Depending on what happens at that meeting, the steering committee will either develop more concrete proposals for consideration or continue to collect feedback and seek consensus around new ideas.
“No one was trying to come up with answers today or argue that one proposal was superior to others,” said Brian Shannon, faculty athletics representative at Texas Tech University and president of the Division IA Faculty Athletics Representatives. Shannon presented his groups’ ideas to the board on Tuesday.
“I was really encouraged,” he said. “There was really good rapport, a desire to figure it out and work together. I’m optimistic that we’re on the right track. This was a good step.”
This period of time is critical for Division I, Hatch said.
“There is a tremendous commitment to and goodwill about college athletics and the NCAA,” he said. “I am impressed at how many people want to enliven the NCAA and make it more vital for the core purposes for which it was established a century ago.”