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NCAA Convention to feature Association-wide vote for only third time since 1997

In January, representatives of every NCAA division will gather to vote on the same Association-wide issue — to the adding five public members to the NCAA Board of Governors.

Though the process seems unusual now, all three divisions took part in Association-wide votes at every NCAA Convention for more than two decades after the split into three divisions in 1973. It was the restructuring in 1996-97 that gave each division a high degree of autonomy and reduced the role of the Association-wide vote.

Since the mid-’90s restructuring, only two other issues required all divisions to gather and vote on the same legislation. In 2000, the Association voted to strengthen its nondiscrimination principle. Then, in 2008, all member schools voted to clarify the authority of the Executive Committee.

The 2000 vote was an important one — it added language to the Constitution to specifically require the Association to refrain from discrimination based on age, color, disability, gender, national origin, race, religion, creed or sexual orientation. The same proposal also added language stating that each member school is responsible for developing its own nondiscrimination policy.

Ivy League Executive Director Robin Harris, then on the NCAA national office staff, remembers the vote, which occurred only a few years after the restructuring that had led to fewer Association-wide votes at the Convention.

“I remember more people came. It felt like old times,” says Harris, noting that the restructuring had led to fewer Division I delegates at the Convention. “We had the big room again, and people were coming in. And because of that session, we created other programming people would be interested in. The subject matter was pretty important.”

In 2008, the vote was more clerical than consequential. The Executive Committee was specifically given the ability to adopt and implement policies.

Jackie Campbell, then associate commissioner of the Atlantic 10 Conference and chair of the Division I Management Council and now managing director of law, policy and governance at the national office, remembers sitting on the dais and speaking to the delegates but recalls that she was unmoved by the gravity of the vote.

“We knew what we wanted to accomplish, and this was just the process we had to follow to get it done,” Campbell says.

This Association-wide vote could be the most significant since the 1997 restructuring made them so infrequent. “This would change the dynamics of the conversation in the Board of Governors room,” Campbell says. “It’s a noteworthy change to our governance process.”

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Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.