You are here

Members provide feedback on new Board of Governors structure

Proposed changes could be presented at committee's April meeting

The NCAA’s Board of Governors has spent the last year researching and surveying Association members in its effort to develop the most effective leadership structure for the NCAA’s highest-ranking governance body.

Now, after engaging a group of more than 40 members from all three divisions in a discussion about what the composition and structure should look like, members of the board feel they are ready to have informed conversations that can produce a concrete proposal, possibly as early as this spring.

Polls taken during the Thursday session at the NCAA Convention in San Antonio mirrored the data gathered in a broader survey taken in November, indicating members’ possible support for increasing the balance in representation from all three divisions, adding student-athletes as members and setting terms that aren’t tied to service on other NCAA committees. Judy Bense, who has led the board’s ad hoc Subcommittee on Structure and Composition, said the feedback provided a road map to a structure that she feels members could support in a division-wide vote next year.

What this group in this room needs to know is that your voice has been heard and added,” Bense, who is president of the University of West Florida, told the audience. “How your voting paralleled the 2,000 people in the larger survey, that gives me confidence that these numbers and these trends are on the right track. This is where the rubber really will hit the road. And over the course of the next couple months, we’ll come up with a model that we hope the governors and the membership can support.”

Thursday’s session – led by Bense; Kansas State University President and Board of Governors chair Kirk Schulz; University of South Carolina, Columbia President and Division I Board of Directors chair Harris Pastides; and University of Northwestern-St. Paul President and Division III Presidents Council chair Alan Cureton – was the latest step in a two-and-a-half-year planned evolution of the Board of Governors. During that time, the board has explored the possibility of changes not just in its member makeup, but also restated its mission and examined its role in the NCAA’s overall governance process.

Through that review, the Board of Governors has discussed whether diversifying its leadership to include more representation from athletics directors, senior woman administrators, faculty athletics representatives and student-athletes – similar to changes enacted in the Division I governance system last year – would help it carry out its strategic planning and Association-wide policymaking responsibilities. Bense said the example the Board of Governors saw in the Division I restructuring led the panel to question whether it could also benefit from that broader representation to capture a range of perspectives on Association-wide issues without letting loyalties to divisions or schools interfere.

Board members hoped Thursday’s session would help answer some of those questions as it moves closer to a potential proposal. 

“It’s important that we do this well, that we do this right,” Schulz told the group Thursday. “We’re at a point in time where we’re looking at representation issues and whether we have the right people around the table to make the best decisions for the NCAA. … We’ve worked to evolve the Board of Governors, not just representation, but also to make sure all voices are heard.”

The board gathered feedback from NCAA members through a survey distributed in early November 2015 to help it determine the membership’s desire for specific changes, such as modifications in divisional representation. Thursday’s session was intended to gather additional feedback and present potential models for the board’s makeup.

The survey results during Thursday’s session were similar to results of the November survey. Eighty-six percent of attendees supported improving the balance of representation from the three divisions on the board, which now includes eight of its 16 voting members from Division I’s Football Bowl Subdivision, but only four combined representatives from Divisions II and III. The structure concepts that were shared presented a range of potential directions the restructuring could take, including: equal representation among division presidents; diversifying the members’ positions to include additional athletics directors and faculty athletics representatives; and adding, for the first time, student-athletes.

One additional option illustrated what the Board of Governors could look like if divisional representation increased. In that model, Division I would have its seats on the board reduced from 60 percent of the members to 40 percent, while Divisions II and III would see their representation increase from 15 percent each to 30 percent. That concept drew the strongest support from the room.

"This is not about power or money," Pastides said. "This is about good governance, good Association-wide leadership."

Comments from the room agreed with Pastides’ view that the change should focus on the benefits gained by having a broader range of perspectives on the board.

Seventy-seven percent of the session’s participants also supported establishing separate terms for Board of Governors members who were not tied to their terms on divisional governance bodies, such as the Divisions II and III Presidents Councils or the Division I Board of Directors. And 57 percent supported including student-athletes as members of the board.

While members indicated their support, expanding the board’s membership beyond school presidents may not be a certainty. Schulz said the question the board will need to consider is: If student-athletes were added, would it also be necessary to include a broader spectrum of members by including athletics directors, senior woman administrators and faculty athletics representatives, among others?

“To me, I think part of the decision in my mind is you have to go all the way, one or the other,” Schulz said.

Bense said she believes the feedback gathered from the session was enough to move her committee closer to drafting a proposal, which she plans to present to the Board of Governors during its April meeting in Indianapolis. If the board approves that proposal, a vote of the entire Association membership could take place as soon as the Opening Business Session at the 2017 NCAA Convention. Two-thirds of those voting members would then need to support the proposal for it to pass.