NCAA Calls for Special Convention to Overhaul College Athletics

NCAA Calls for Special Convention to Overhaul College Athletics
portrait of Dean Golembeski
By Dean Golembeski

Published on August 4, 2021

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After months of turmoil and controversy, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) says it will hold a special convention in November to "propose dramatic changes" to its constitution that could see it decentralize its operations, putting more power in the hands of individual schools and conferences.

"As the national landscape changes, college sports must also quickly adapt to become more responsive to the needs of college athletes and current member schools," Jack DeGioia, chair of the NCAA Board of Governors, said in a news release posted to the NCAA website on July 30. "This effort will position the NCAA to continue providing meaningful opportunities for current college athletes and those for generations to come."

A 22-person constitution review committee will be appointed in August to propose changes that will be considered at the November special convention. The convention will be held virtually on or before November 15. The committee will include presidents, commissioners, athletics directors, and students from Divisions I, II, and III.

Any proposals approved during the special convention will be submitted to the NCAA Board of Governors by December 15 and will be voted upon during the NCAA's regularly scheduled convention in January 2022.

NCAA Seeks New Governance Model

"This is not about tweaking the model we have now," NCAA President Mark Emmert said. "This is about wholesale transformation so we can set a sustainable course for college sports for decades to come."

A key function of the committee will be to propose a new system of governance and rules enforcement for the more than 1,000 colleges and universities that belong to the NCAA.

"Under the current structure, expectations for the Association vastly exceed its capabilities," said Dr. Robert Gates, a member of the NCAA Board of Governors. "The NCAA has significant responsibility but little authority to fulfill those responsibilities. ... Until we can better align the mission of the Association with its authority, the NCAA will not be able to play the role it should play in governing college sports. We cannot go on as we are."

Recent Policies and Proposals Could Point the Way

The NCAA has been in the headlines for months. In March, its handling of the women's basketball tournament was roundly criticized. Players and coaches raised gender equity concerns after the NCAA provided inadequate facilities for the women's teams compared to the men's teams.

Then on June 21, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 9-0 that the NCAA is subject to antitrust laws, which has opened the door to greater compensation for athletes. But the biggest shakeup occurred when the NCAA implemented its name, image, and likeness (NIL) policy that allows college athletes to monetize their fame.

The NIL policy, which took effect July 1, could very well provide a blueprint for governance under a revised NCAA constitution. Under the policy, schools and conferences have the power to develop their own rules for handling name, image, and likeness issues.

It's also possible that the NCAA might consider changes proposed in April by the independent Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics. The Knight Commission called for a governance model that would separate football at the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) level from all other Division I sports governed by the NCAA.

"The current Division I college sports governing structure is fragmented. FBS college football is the biggest engine driving college sports and, yet, no single entity is responsible for its governance," Knight Commission CEO Amy Privette Perko said in an email to BestColleges.

She was referring to the fact that the NCAA does not manage the College Football Playoff National Championship (CFP). The CFP is the postseason tournament for big-time teams — such as those from Ohio State, Alabama, and Clemson — that play in the NCAA's Football Bowl Subdivision. The College Football Playoff is managed by CFP Administration LLC, an organization run by 10 FBS conferences and FBS independents.

"The commission's proposal would create more accountability for the sport of FBS football and align responsibility with authority," Perko added.

Although we don't yet know whether the NCAA's constitution review committee will enact the Knight Commission's recommendations or use the new NIL policy as a jumping-off point for broader changes, we should have more answers come November.


Feature Image: dan_prat / E+ / Getty Images

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