Office of the President

In the moment, the challenges we face in college sports can feel daunting. Those of us who work daily with student-athletes understand the power of watching young people pursue their athletic dreams while completing a college degree. Yet we perennially face new obstacles — some big, some small — that lead us to consider whether we are living up to our values and making a positive impact.

The dilemmas before us today look different than the ones we approached five, 10, 50 or even 100 years ago. But throughout its history, our Association has relied on its core beliefs to make tough decisions that establish the NCAA as a leader in the questions faced by higher education. Time and again, college sports has paved a path that the rest of society can follow.

From our founding more than a century ago to contend with safety issues in football to our efforts over the past two decades to create academic standards that ensure student-athletes are prepared for the rigors of a college curriculum, we have wrestled with how to make decisions that keep college athletics on the right track. At the time those issues felt overwhelming to our predecessors, who were charged with navigating them. But today, time and distance allow us a clear view of those choices’ outcomes — and demonstrate that college sports can be forward-looking, recognize opportunities in a changing world and make the right calls.

In coming together to create a fair playing field on which we can all compete, NCAA members must research, discuss and dissect the issues that permeate our country. Along the way, we have adapted to meet the needs of student-athletes. We helped open the doors of opportunity to women in college sports, even after initial reluctance. We have stood behind the integrity of Native American tribes, forbidding our championships from being used to promote mascots, nicknames and imagery that are hostile toward them. We have considered the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning people and declined to host our championships in locations that did not value their rights like we do. Above all, we need to stick to our core values and continue to advance new efforts to keep students healthy both mentally and physically.

Today’s college sports landscape is bigger and more closely scrutinized than ever before. But our past efforts demonstrate that the path forward, though difficult, is bright. When we grasp the opportunity to shine a light on the right direction, others follow. You as leaders have the vision and expertise to stay the course, with the agility to shift our attention to new areas and add value to those emerging discussions. We miss the opportunity if we allow obstacles to dissuade us because we are afraid of the hard work involved in making the tough but right decisions.

College sports — with its diversity of people, experiences, paths and perspectives — leads.

And like we have in the past, we must all be committed to leading for the future.

Mark Emmert
NCAA President