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Emmert wants the Association to keep making strides

NCAA President recommends focus on academic, fairness, well-being issues

In his State of the Association address at the Opening Business Session of the NCAA Convention, President Mark Emmert told delegates that recent changes have put intercollegiate athletics in a good place, but more work still needs to be done.

Emmert, who spoke Thursday evening in San Antonio, told the audience all three divisions should be proud of their recent accomplishments.

He noted changes such as the deregulation of rules regarding food and nutrition in Division I and II. He also highlighted new bylaws covering full cost of attendance for student-athletes and multiyear scholarships that prospects can sign at the end of the recruiting process.

Emmert mentioned the importance of adding voting rights for college athletes in the governance structure, and particularly thanked Division III for its leadership on the issue.

A lot was done, Emmert pointed out, but he said the Association needs to focus on three priorities for the near future. They are:

  • Academics.
  • Fairness.
  • Health and well-being. 

Of the three, he ranked academics highest on the list. He said the area where college athletics can benefit most centers on rebalancing academics and athletics when it comes to time demands on student-athletes. He also noted the national Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee came to the NCAA Convention ready to help lead the discussion on this topic.

Regarding fairness, Emmert said the Association must deliver on commitments to student-athletes at all levels. He pointed out that 98 percent of those who participate in college sports will not go on to be professional athletes. Given that likelihood, providing student-athletes with a meaningful educational experience is important.

Supporting those few who do go on to play professional sports is also important, Emmert noted. For  example, one Division I proposal passed this week allows for more flexibility for a player to decide whether to declare for the NBA draft or  to return to compete at his school.

The health and safety priority point focuses on mental health and concussions. Again, Emmert offered an example of where the Association is striving to provide more benefits for student-athletes such as the NCAA’s partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense on concussion research.

Emmert also stressed that the membership must address issues surrounding insurance and medical expenses for student-athletes. The national office is in the process of collecting more data to see where any gaps may exist.

Going forward, Emmert asked the membership to keep in mind a quote he referenced from the speech made by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the recipient of the NCAA President’s Gerald R. Ford Award earlier in the day, when he said, “We are the guardians of the trust that is intercollegiate athletics.”

The Opening Business Session concluded with Emmert facilitating a conversation between student-athlete representatives Dustin Page, co-chair of the Division I SAAC;  Roberto Baroniel, chair of the Division II SAAC; Amanda Ingersoll, chair of the Division III SAAC; Kirk Schulz, chair of the NCAA Board of Governors; Harris Pastides, chair of the Division I Board of Directors; Judith Bense, chair of the Division II Presidents Council; and Alan Cureton, chair of the Division III Presidents Council.