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Board assesses Dialogue, looks at next steps for restructuring

Presidents are pleased with feedback from members who participated in Dialogue and plan to work on more defined plan.

By Michelle Brutlag Hosick

The steering committee guiding the restructuring of Division I will now turn its attention to defining and clarifying aspects of a possible new structure. The next step: determining which groups will be represented at its various levels and in what areas members will have autonomy versus shared governance.

The Board of Directors Saturday mulled over the information gathered in the two-day Division I Governance Dialogue. Members were satisfied with how engaged the more than 850 participants from across Division I were at the Dialogue, as well as the quality of feedback they offered.

Members noted some cynicism they sensed among participants, but remained optimistic that they can find a positive solution to the governance issues..

“I am encouraged by the level of engagement and positive feedback we’ve received from those who participated in the Dialogue,” said board chair Nathan Hatch, president at Wake Forest University. “Now we as a steering committee need to take all that we’ve heard and shape it into a more efficient, streamlined structure and process.”

Top on the steering committee’s to-do list will be defining exactly what autonomy means, what roles athletics directors, student-athletes and other constituencies might serve in the new structure, and on what issues members can retain some autonomy. Discussing the nuts and bolts of shared governance and the override process, will also be critical. Presidents acknowledged the frustration expressed at the Dialogue due to the lack of detail around these issues.

Board members also were pleased at how much support they found for some aspects of the model they put forward. For example, support was strong for both presidential control of athletics and for defining an area of autonomy for the higher-resourced conferences.

In early discussions, the board members indicated some support for defining the areas of autonomy as issues pertaining to student-athlete welfare, though the steering committee will continue discussions over the next few months.

The steering committee members re-iterated their commitment to spearheading the restructuring process, while continuing to seek feedback from other groups such as commissioners, athletics directors and student-athletes.

Hatch said he hopes that the steering committee, with continued feedback from Division I members, will have a more complete model for review by the full board of directors in April. Conferences would be able to review that model during spring meetings.

In other business, the board members discussed a possible change to the waiver policy for student-athletes who transfer, but decided to allow the membership time to vet the proposal before taking action. 

Under the proposed new process, undergraduate student-athletes who transfer schools would gain a sixth year to complete their four years of eligibility. 

The change would impact primarily those who play baseball, basketball, bowl subdivision football and men’s ice hockey, as well as those in other sports who already received a one-time transfer exception. Student-athletes would still need to present some form of mitigation, such as a serious family illness, to be eligible for the extension.

If this change is eventually adopted, undergraduate student-athletes who fit the specific criteria would no longer be issued waivers to play immediately. The change could reduce concerns about abuse of the waiver process and the perception that it is inconsistent.