Student Well-Being

NCAA Presidents to Discuss Fundamental Changes at Retreat

By Bryan Toporek — August 09, 2011 3 min read
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Roughly 50 Division 1 presidents and chancellors have converged on Indianapolis for the next two days to discuss widespread changes to the NCAA student-athlete model, including a number of potential reforms that would directly affect high school student-athletes.

NCAA President Mark Emmert called for the retreat earlier this year, partially in response to many of the high-profile scandals that have spread across college football and basketball. But Emmert is quick to note that said scandals are only partial reflections of larger, more pervasive issues that the NCAA needs to confront before they get more out of hand.

“The integrity of collegiate athletics is seriously challenged today by rapidly growing pressures coming from many directions,” Emmert said in a statement last month. “We have reached a point where incremental change is not sufficient to meet these challenges. I want us to act more aggressively and in a more comprehensive way than we have in the past. A few new tweaks of the rules won’t get the job done.”

Participants at the retreat will break into three groups to discuss one of these topics: the financial sustainability in Division I athletics, student-athlete academic success, and “fortifying the integrity of the enterprise.” Translation: A whole bunch of potential reforms will be on the table at the retreat, likely including the idea of full-cost scholarships for student-athletes.

After all, this presidential retreat will only continue to build on the already growing momentum for changing parts of the NCAA model. Just last month, SEC Commissioner Mike Slive proposed: boosting academic requirements for incoming freshmen student-athletes; allowing full-cost scholarships; guaranteeing multiyear athletic scholarships; and extending the window for student-athletes to graduate under scholarship.

While Slive won’t be in attendance at today’s presidents’ retreat, four of his fellow conference directors—including Dan Beebe of the Big 12 conference—will be.

The changes that spawn from this conference won’t be immediate—don’t expect to see anything enacted for the 2011-12 school year. In fact, the retreat isn’t even expected to generate formal proposals for the NCAA’s legislative process, according to the Associated Press.

That doesn’t mean change won’t come from this retreat, however.

“Decisionmaking rests with the presidents. Strong, decisive presidential leadership is critical to the future of Division I intercollegiate athletics,” said Emmert last month. “In my discussions with presidents, chancellors, and conference commissioners leading up to this retreat, I have learned there is a deep sense of concern about the issues and an eagerness to address them. We can’t continue to sail in all directions. We need to set a clear course and establish the will to navigate the rough seas ahead.”

That doesn’t sound like a man who’s ready to keep following the status quo. As ESPN’s Tom Farrey wrote on Sunday:

This one's going to be different. Emmert's tea party will matter. Fundamental change will come, with some cajoling. Why? Because the insiders are now outsiders.

In other words: Now that conference commissioners and NCAA higher-ups recognize the need for fundamental reforms, there’s little reason to expect that changes aren’t right around the corner.

To that point, just last week, the Division I Leadership Council approved five changes to the men’s basketball recruiting process, including deregulating communication between coaches and prospects (i.e., text messages are once again allowed); allowing unlimited contact beginning in a prospect’s junior year, and pushing up the date that prospects can begin taking official visits.

For updates about the retreat, search the #NCAAprez hashtag on Twitter.

Photo: NCAA President Mark Emmert speaks at a news conference at the men’s Final Four in Houston. Emmert wants to make big changes, and he’s asking schools to help. Emmert is to spend Tuesday and Wednesday, Aug. 9-10, 2011, meeting with more than five dozen university presidents and school administrators about the future of the NCAA. (David J. Phillip/AP-File)

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.