Office of the President

The adage that the only constant in life is change has certainly played out in college sports recently.

Together, schools, conferences and the NCAA national office have worked hard to address evolving issues in college athletics. Recent legislation, emerging issues and a sustained focus on student-athlete well-being garner necessary national attention and debate. As a result, the Association thinks critically about what college sports should look like, while constantly keeping its eye on what is best for today’s student-athletes.

To provide the best experience for college athletes, the Association’s governance structure continues to evolve and remain flexible. The structure has helped enact several positive changes, such as cost-of-attendance legislation, unlimited access to food, and improved academic support and standards.

However, some challenges continue to arise and can be difficult to manage nationally and on campus. That’s why it is vital for all of us to maintain our focus on student-athletes as our first priority. Significant progress has been made, and we can continue this movement by staying true to our priorities of academics, fairness, and health and well-being initiatives.

Academics must continue to come first across all three divisions. We need to meet students where they are to address their learning needs and provide proper academic support. Academic performance and graduation rates have increased across the country, and we want to see those numbers continue. Students should graduate from college equipped with an education that prepares them for jobs and opportunities in today’s work world.

Fairness initiatives such as cost of attendance and guaranteed scholarships also have had an enormous positive impact. Student-athletes are leading the discussion on time demands in each division to help them achieve the right balance among academics, athletics and their entire college experience. At the campus level, coaches and administrators should work with students to better assess the demands of college life. We know learning occurs in and out of the classroom, especially with today’s technology and interactive education opportunities. It’s only fair to work together to make room for the applied learning students are looking for.

The Association has done excellent work in the health and safety space through concussion research, protocols and guidelines to improve mental health for student-athletes. Ensuring students feel welcome and included on campus and in their athletic travels is a critical issue in the 21st century. Nationally and on campus, safe environments are essential for students and fans. This includes equal treatment for LGBT individuals and concrete steps to address all forms of sexual violence on campus. We must be active participants, not bystanders, on these important issues.

Bottom line, we all need to understand the needs of today’s college athletes and support them on their paths to success. This may involve some challenges to conventional wisdom and altering of national ideas, and that’s OK. Today’s student-athletes are using their voices to advocate for their needs in this changing landscape, and together, we can improve college sports now and in the future.

 

Mark Emmert
NCAA President