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Debunking the myths: How the NCAA works

2015 NCAA Convention

Every January, NCAA members travel from campuses and conferences around the country to gather at the NCAA Convention. The Convention provides an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of former athletes, coaches, administrators and college athletes.

It also is the venue where representatives from NCAA member schools and conferences gather to vote on rule changes, large and small, developed by NCAA committees throughout the year. The Convention is at the heart of the NCAA rule-making structure, which underscores that the NCAA is a membership organization.

But this fact is often misunderstood: 

The NCAA national office makes and arbitrarily enforces NCAA rules.

Executive VP Oliver Luck on how the NCAA differs from pro sports leagues.

More than 1,100 NCAA member colleges and universities make up the NCAA’s three divisions. School and conference representatives from each division convene in January to share ideas as well as discuss and vote upon proposed legislation. NCAA President Mark Emmert sets the tone for discussions with his annual state of the association address, but he does not have an official vote in any division. The NCAA national office is charged by the membership to help to administer, interpret and enforce those rules, host NCAA national championships and run a number of other programs to benefit student-athletes. 

Each school submits votes on rules and proposals according to their own interests.

NCAA leaders, selected from within the membership, take part in thorough discussions throughout the legislative process to determine the best course of action for their respective divisions. Discussions on a single topic may last a year, sometimes longer, in an effort to ensure that schools have a chance to fully weigh the effects of potential rule changes before they vote.

The five autonomy conferences will now play by different rules than the rest of Division I.

While these schools now have the opportunity to adopt legislation in specific areas, the remaining schools can choose to follow those rules as well. The autonomy conferences have authority to adopt legislation in limited circumstances. Overall, all Division I conferences will have a say in the majority of rule changes. 

College athletes have no say in the rules that govern them. They don’t have a voice that is heard by NCAA leadership, conference leadership or even campus administrators.

Athletes are represented by student-athlete advisory committees at the campus, conference and national levels. National SAAC representatives for each division meet in Indianapolis four times per year, where they discuss pertinent issues among themselves and with representatives from various NCAA committees, ensuring that their concerns are heard.

With the recent changes to the Division I governance process, athletes not only will have a voice – they also will have a vote. In the autonomy business session, three athletes from each of the five major conferences – 15 athletes in all – will vote alongside athletics administrators.  Student-athletes will also vote in all the major Division I governance groups – the Committee on Academics, the Council and the Board of Directors.

In Division II, representatives of the national student-athlete advisory committee have a strong relationship with the Division II Management Council, and at the 2015 Convention the Division II membership will vote on proposals to add seats and a vote for athletes on the management council and a vote on the floor at the Division II business session.

The Division III student-athlete advisory committee also already has a seat and two votes on the Division III Management Council.

Divisional Convention Preview

NCAA colleges from Divisions I, II and III will gather at the 2015 NCAA Convention to discuss and vote upon proposed rules and regulations. Take a look at what each division has on tap for this year:

Athletes find their voice

For the first time, the Atlantic 10 Conference will invite athletes to attend conference meetings, reflecting a national trend of athletes increasingly taking part in the decision-making process.

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2015 Honors
More about NCAA honors >