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Certification changes revealed to Convention delegates

By Brian Hendrickson

After a year in development, the Division I Committee on Athletics Certification presented a new set of concepts for overhauling the certification program to improve efficiency and provide for the first time an annual glimpse into the comprehensive performance of athletics programs.

The new proposal seeks to turn what had been an exhaustive process that previously took place once every 10 years into an annual report by using information that is already being routinely collected. The new report would focus on measuring academic and fiscal performances, progress on inclusion initiatives such as Title IX and the quality of the student-athlete experience.

William Perry, a member of the committee and president of Eastern Illinois University, said the program would not function as an accreditation process but instead would serve as an ongoing review of an athletics program’s health.

“The time has come that we need something that can help institutions get better in more real time,” said Troy Arthur, NCAA director of academic and membership affairs. “There needs to be more accountability in a way that streamlines (the process) and uses the current technology.”

The overhaul initiative started a year ago when NCAA President Mark Emmert asked the AMA staff to examine its programs to improve efficiency. The certification program was targeted because the process had not undergone any significant changes in more than 20 years and was in need of an update. Computers offered minimal assistance in the process when the program started, Arthur said, and as technology evolved the process struggled to keep pace. Over time, it became increasingly unwieldy both to members and the Committee on Athletics Certification.

Last April, the Division I Board of Directors approved suspending the certification program for all but the 55 members currently undergoing certification at that time in order to provide the committee with the opportunity to develop and propose a new program.

That revamped framework was unveiled to the membership for the first time Thursday in an effort to educate the membership on the proposed changes and to solicit feedback.

The new program would break down the annual report into four categories: academic, financial, inclusion and the student-athlete experience. About 80 percent of the information gathered would be drawn from reports already being submitted annually: Financial and demographic reports, graduation rates and financial dashboard indicators. That information would be submitted electronically to a new system, the infrastructure for which is planned for development this spring.

The changes are intended to address several concerns with the current system. The exhaustive evaluation is a reason schools went through the certification process only every 10 years, making the process of addressing any concerns that were discovered extremely slow. The regular evaluation process provided by the new system hopes to help schools and the NCAA identify and address problems as they develop.

The collected data would be distilled into a report card that would be publicly accessible so institutions can compare their performance with their peers and to hold them accountable to public inspection.

Perry said the report card’s transparency was an essential aspect of the program, calling the review process an “iron triangle” of trust, with the three corners representing the NCAA, the university and the public.

“You have to build trust among all three vertices of the triangle,” Perry said. “But the important thing is there has to be transparency. It’s important that the public know that we’re all serious about our institutional performance.”

During Thursday’s review session, Perry and Arthur asked attendees to gather in groups and discuss several questions addressing each of the four core categories of the proposed process and submit the results of those discussions to the committee for review. Additional feedback can be submitted to certification@ncaa.org

The feedback the committee gathered on Thursday will be used to make adjustments to the program, after which the committee will report its final proposal to the Board of Directors in April.