In the new NCAA Division I constitution, this must be every president’s top priority.


What holds Division I together? That’s the question Mark Emmert shared with the press during his annual State of the NCAA address on Thursday. Described as an existential crisis for the organization, events that have gripped the NCAA and its members over the past three years have knocked the organization, and much of higher education, on its heels.

The Processing Working Committee, co-chaired by SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey, and Ohio University athletic director Julie Cromar, must grapple with Emmert’s question. While the committee, launched in the 2021-22 academic year, continues to meet regularly to sort out what the Division I constitution should say, there are more fundamental questions that only presidents of a group colleges can answer.

Until the mid-1990s, athletic directors ran the NCAA. Finding all sorts of challenges in enforcing the organization’s rules and regulations, members agreed that they needed to involve a higher authority to settle disputes and bring some order to the chaos: university presidents. . In 2022, it’s clear that presidents are crippled by their own inability to do anything.

Now the organization turns to Congress. As Emmert said in his press conference, “how do you develop a fair and fast (compliance) model, and at the same time… (provide) a single legal model”?

A legal model, which allows colleges and universities to retain their non-profit status. The one that prevents the tagging of athletes as employees and all the federal regulations that come with that tagging, including Workers Compensation, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and OSHA regulations. And, perhaps most importantly, allows donors to continue to receive substantial tax benefits for donating to their alma mater.

These are not small changes. And add to that: athletes should also have a voice in their experiences and a place at the table when their “work-life” balance is at stake. As America goes through a period dubbed “The Great Resignation” (or as some have called it “The Great Reinvention”), college athletes are not immune to wanting to “reclaim my time”.

There is one major item the Division I Constitutional Committee can address between now and August 1, 2022 – the issue of weekly contact hours in team activities. Many Division I programs routinely have training and competition activities for well over 20 hours per week, 12 months per year, up to six days per week. This is in addition to being a full-time student.

Over the decades, there’s been a slow but steady shift toward the supposed “days off” and “summers off” model that was once a staple of varsity teams. Extend playing and training seasons to include “in-season” and “off-season” activities; giving wide latitude to strength and conditioning teams to oversee additional “optional workouts”, for many sports there is no downtime.

This has happened over the years for two reasons: first, because associations and coaching groups have effectively pushed for more control/contact with their players; and two, because the institutions added additional games to make more money.

Presidents who appreciate the educational model need to make a change. Here’s why:

What should concern university leaders is the fact that this encroachment can create barriers for athletes who want to land jobs and start a career after graduation. As I wrote a few months ago, the research of the National Association of Colleges and Employers demonstrates that employers “emphasize hard skills: in addition to solid academic preparation, they emphasize the importance of internships and cooperative educational experiences before graduation. These “real world” experiences are increasingly being used by companies to make hiring decisions. Employers choose to hire the fresh graduate who has landed a paid internship, as opposed to one who has only worked unpaid internships (or none at all).

This reality is particularly problematic for black college athletes, who make up the vast majority of male football and basketball players.

Among the many challenges college presidents face right now, prioritizing graduation, career opportunities, and success is their top priority. That’s the difference between college and the pros. As the NCAA has often repeated, “98% of athletes turn pro in something other than track and field.”

Isn’t it time to recognize the disconnect that is happening before our eyes?

As Division I seeks to find a common theme across all institutions, programs that cannot (or will not) accept the regulations that govern the tendency to “overtrain” their athletes year after year, should simply let behind them any claim. to the educational model of collegiate athletics and form a business enterprise.

It’s so simple.


Comments are closed.