Office of the President

The world surrounding college sports is changing rapidly. But sometimes, when change is happening all around us, it indicates we are perhaps not looking hard enough at needed evolution within ourselves.

We talk often about higher education as the bedrock of college sports. Many of the legislative and policy strides we have made in recent years mark true progress in bolstering the value of college sports in developing the next generation of American leaders.

But regardless of whether previous decisions indicate we have our priorities in the right order, the recent announcements of a U.S. Department of Justice investigation of college men’s basketball and the Division I Committee on Infractions ruling on North Carolina have sparked a new distrust among some in the American public. Frankly, no matter what you think of the investigation or the committee decision, many are questioning our ability or willingness, as the stewards of college sports, to do our jobs.

It would be easy – reassuring, even – to think of these as problems limited to Division I men’s basketball and football. But this perception is not a Division I problem. It is not even a revenue-producing sports problem. It belongs to all of us.

If you think your school and your program are insulated from the problems that have led us to this point, consider the culture from which we recruit our college athletes: year-round sports, travel leagues, multiple summer camps, an entire industry built upon promising young people and their families something it may never deliver. Those entities, of course, are not part of college sports as we know it. But to onlookers, we are all one mechanism churning out athletes whose status as students seems an afterthought.

We are now in a new year, but we are still living under the cloud of the old. The decisions we make and actions we take in 2018 will go a long way in setting the course for the future of college sports. We cannot enter the next basketball season without substantive change.

This fall I received endorsements from the NCAA Board of Governors and the Division I Board of Directors to create an independent Commission on College Basketball. This commission, led by Dr. Condoleezza Rice, is examining the relationships within and around college basketball. Dynamics among youth sports leagues, sports agents, apparel companies, coaches, member schools, college athletes, the NBA, the NCAA national office – including enforcement and the NCAA Eligibility Center – all are under the commission’s review.

Its recommendations are expected in April. Before then, and long after, we must commit to correcting our course and demonstrating that college sports is committed to and guided by the principles of higher education. We accomplish that important task by creating opportunities that are fair to student-athletes, put their academic success in front of athletic performance and prioritize their physical and emotional well-being.

In some aspects of college sports, the fundamental mission of higher education has been distorted. But there is much worth protecting, and we must not lose sight of all the good that happens every day. People still love our games and traditions, and they want us to not only embrace change, but lead it.

Much is at stake as we plan our path forward. Our ideals are already in order; now we must work to practice them in all we do.

Mark Emmert
NCAA President