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ADs key to restructuring success

Last year a group of athletics directors sat before the Division I Board of Directors and told the presidents that ADs should be an integral part of any new governance structure they devise. A year later, they’ve gotten what they wanted.

New responsibility

Michael Alden

When the board adopted a new Division I governance structure on Aug. 7, a key component of the plan is that athletics directors fill at least 60 percent of the positions on the new Council, the group that will be responsible for many of the rules and much of the policy-making. For the first time, an athletics director will have a vote on the board as well.

“We had a strong voice in redoing the structure, and now (athletics directors) have to step up, and you have to serve. I am optimistic. … I have spent a lot of time with many of the 351 athletics directors, and I know that we have tremendously qualified people, people with tremendous experience and people with tremendous passion. I’m confident they’ve heard the message that we have all got to do our part to serve.”

- Michael Alden, 2013-14 president of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics and athletics director at the University of Missouri, Columbia

New beginnings

Morgan Burke

Another key aspect of the new structure is the opportunity for student-athletes — both to have their voices heard and to benefit from a renewed focus on their well-being. Some athletics directors within the group of 65 schools granted rule-making flexibility point to potential changes such as how a scholarship is defined, expanded medical care and other well-being issues as “the most exciting” aspect of restructuring.

Others look forward to the clean start, acknowledging an erosion of trust in recent years and a general feeling of dissatisfaction with a legislative process that often saw too many votes directed by conference majorities and not enough actual debate over issues.

Hopes are high that real change will happen on a quicker timetable than in the past, perhaps through a system similar to the working group philosophy adopted by the Leadership Council in recent years.

“(The new structure) gives us a fresh beginning. But the opportunity is also the challenge. … The Council has to make sure they set the direction for things that need to get accomplished, rather than having groups down below them driving their plans through the organization, as we’ve seen in the past.”

- Morgan Burke, Purdue University athletics director and president of the Division IA Athletics Directors’ Association

New challenges

Peter Fields

Not every athletics director and school in Division I is on board with the changes. Many are nervous and skeptical that the changes will be a positive thing for college sports.

“We don’t know what direction this is all going to end up going. We have real questions about what we’re going to do and how this is going to play out. We’ve had the same governance structure for 20 years. What does this mean, especially for schools like us in Division I, smaller schools?”

- Peter Fields, Montana State University-Bozeman athletics director

Outside the 65, schools are not as nervous.

“I think that we at Weber State are going to still operate the way we do now. We will still have the budget constraints, but I’m fine with the way (the division is) moving. We will probably have more of an opportunity to streamline change. It’s been hard to make meaningful changes because we have to go through so many levels for a final decision. I think that will be an improvement.”

- Jerry Bovee, Weber State University athletics director

New outlook

Jack Swarbrick

Improving the student-athlete experience was a goal of the restructuring effort undertaken by the Division I Steering Committee on Governance. Other aspirations included building a more effective and efficient structure that offered meaningful opportunities for participation. The steering committee, evolving into a transition committee, will evaluate the success of its endeavor over the coming months.

Success for some would mean reaching the goals set out by restructuring. Some have loftier goals.

“I hope Division I looks much more like a mechanism for conducting sports and less like a mechanism for conducting business. We will have succeeded if we get the focus back on the efforts of our student-athletes and coaches and away from the business of sport.”

- Jack Swarbrick, University of Notre Dame athletics director

Others have more modest hopes and would be happy to see Division I schools still together in a few years.

“The issues are different at different levels, but there are more things that make us similar than make us different. The educational component still has to have its rightful place, and that’s what should keep us together.”

- Jerry Bovee, Weber State University athletics director