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Emmert stresses diligence in three commitments to college athletics

A dedication to academics, student-athlete well-being, fairness will help Association live up to mission

Download the State of the Association address

During a week in which NCAA members discussed changes to address the time student-athletes commit to their sports and the how their health and well-being is supported, President Mark Emmert stressed the need to continue making those areas a priority. 

In his annual State of the Association address Thursday at the Opening Business Session of the 2017 NCAA Convention in Nashville, Tennessee, Emmert reminded delegates that the ability to push intercollegiate athletics forward will depend on being diligent about academics, student-athlete health and well-being, and fairness.

Focusing on those three overarching commitments, he said, will allow the Association to measure how well it is living up to its mission.

“A tradition in sports is to think of things in increments: quarters, halves, seasons.   

And last season doesn’t matter,” Emmert said. “But when changing policy and culture, it’s important to take a longer view. We’ve achieved a lot in five years. The positive impact of your hard work can be seen on campuses across the country.”   

Emmert pointed to several examples in each of those three areas where the Association made progress in the last year.

In academics, Emmert pointed to the improvement the Association has experienced over the last 15 years. In that time, Division I Graduation Success Rates have increased 12 percent. He also noted that the Graduation Success Rates of African-American males has reached 70 percent. That includes improvement of African-American male basketball and football players, which have risen 31 and 17 percent, respectively.

At the recently completed College Football Playoff national championship game, 36 players on the rosters of the University of Alabama and Clemson University had already earned their  degrees.

And looking ahead, a change in Division I revenue distribution will connect more than 75 percent of the Association’s revenue distribution to student-athlete support and academic success.

Over the last decade in Division II, the Academic Success Rate for Hispanic female student-athletes has increased by 16 percent, and by 12 percent for Hispanic male student-athletes.

Emmert said the entire Association should be proud of what has been accomplished over the last 15 years.

With regard to student-athlete health and well-being, Emmert said higher education has a unique opportunity and responsibility, especially given that some of the world's best research universities are within the membership.

The NCAA and the U.S. Department of Defense continue to collaborate on a concussion study that has more than 28,000 participants. The goal is to find more conclusive ways to benefit the Association’s student-athletes by making sports safer to compete in, and in the process aid society more broadly. Mental health care is another issue that Emmert said student-athletes often want to discuss. He believes it is important to evolve the college sports culture so that coming forward with a mental health issue will be encouraged and not stigmatized. Intercollegiate sports can play a role in reaching that goal in society, Emmert said.

Emmert then pointed to sexual assault as an area of well-being that needs continual focus.

The Association took steps to address the issue this year when the NCAA Sexual Assault Task Force published a prevention tool kit that was endorsed by higher education associations, committees throughout the NCAA governance structure and subject matter experts throughout the field. And the NCAA’s top governing body, the Board of Governors, has created a Commission to Combat Campus Sexual Violence to continue that work and initiate a change in campus culture.

Emmert also praised the national Student-Athlete Advisory Committees for its efforts in the “It’s On Us” campaign to help change the culture on campuses toward sexual violence.

In regard to fairness, Emmert pointed to recent legislation and policies that have been passed to benefit student-athletes. Some of those developments include: 

  • Division I full cost of attendance.   
  • Multiyear scholarships.   
  • Unlimited meals and snacks in Divisions I and II.     
  • Providing funding for family travel to the Men’s and Women’s Final Fours.   
  • Increasing student-athletes’ voice in all three levels of the governance structure.

The NCAA has also stepped in to protect student-athlete well-being through proposals designed to address time management issues in both Division I and Division II, and through the Board of Governors’ decision to relocate NCAA championships out of North Carolina due to a law that discriminates against those in the LGBTQ community.

Emmert further stressed that diversity initiatives must remain a focus in the Association. He said it is important that student-athletes see leaders among collegiate administrators and coaches who  inspire them to see themselves in those roles.

Emmert also asked those in the membership to sign the Presidential Pledge, which asks colleges and universities to commit to inclusive hiring practices.

Pat Summitt Award 

Joan Cronan, the women’s athletics director emeritus at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, received the inaugural Pat Summitt Award from Emmert during the Opening Business Session.

Joan Cronan, the women’s athletics director emeritus at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, receives the inaugural Pat Summitt Award.

The award was established to recognize an individual in the Association’s membership for their careerlong commitment to student-athletes and making a difference in their lives.

Cronan, who retired in 2012, served as the women’s athletics director at Tennessee for 29 years. During her tenure, Tennessee expanded women’s varsity sports from seven to 11, and its annual donations to support women’s athletics increased to $2 million per year.

Cronan prioritized academics with student-athletes, leading an initiative that stressed class attendance and engagement. As a result, female student-athletes earned an average 93 percent Graduation Success Rate during her tenure. Cronan also started a community service component that emphasized civic responsibility as part of the athletics experience at the university.