NCAA Draft Constitution Would Reduce Org’s Hold Over College Sports

The draft constitution still bars schools from paying athletes to play but would include greater representation for student-athletes in the org's governance.
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  • The restructuring will give each of the NCAA's three divisions the power to govern itself.
  • It would also reduce the Board of Governors from 21 members to nine and include a recently graduated athlete.
  • The draft will go to membership for feedback following next week's constitutional convention.

The NCAA is proposing to alter its structure to reduce its authority to govern college sports and instead give each of its divisions, conferences, and schools greater power to manage themselves.

If approved by NCAA members, the restructuring would be the most significant since 1973 when the NCAA reorganized from a single group to form the three divisions that exist today — Divisions I, II, and III.

The proposed restructuring was revealed in a draft constitution that the NCAA made public on Nov. 8.

Per the draft, the NCAA would grant each division the authority to reorganize and restructure to meet their particular needs. For instance, each division would be able to set their own rules for academic eligibility and national championships. They could even form new subdivisions. Division I has just one subdivision for football, but it could decide to create more for other sports under the draft constitution.

Another proposed change would reduce the NCAA's Board of Governors from 21 members to nine and would include one recently graduated athlete. The draft also calls for former student-athletes to be added to the leadership bodies of all three NCAA divisions.

“The ratification of a new constitution in January is the first step in the process of transforming NCAA governance”
Jack DiGioia, chairman of the NCAA Board of Governors and the president of Georgetown University

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The draft also affirms that athletes should be allowed to "benefit from commercialization" of their name, image, and likeness, but still bars member institutions from paying athletes.

The draft constitution was developed by a special committee that has been working since August. The committee was formed in response to criticism of the NCAA and to rapidly evolving issues, such as the decision to allow student-athletes to capitalize on their name, image and likeness.

The NCAA will hold a special convention on Nov. 15 to gather feedback on the draft constitution from its members. A final vote on a new constitution then will be held during the NCAA's annual convention in January 2022.

"The ratification of a new constitution in January is the first step in the process of transforming NCAA governance," said Jack DiGioia, chairman of the NCAA Board of Governors and the president of Georgetown University. "A new constitution will provide the divisions the flexibility they need to act."

Among those responding to the draft constitution was Amy Privette Perko, chief executive officer for the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics.

"We're pleased that including college athletes as voting members on the divisional boards is one of the proposed constitutional provisions," she told BestColleges. "However, it's now up to each division to determine the composition of its governing board, so it's not clear if there will be a meaningful number of athletes within each division."

The Knight Commission has been actively advocating for student representation in leadership roles. In an October 20, 2021 letter, the Knight Commission repeated its call for the NCAA to provide "meaningful representation for college athletes at all levels, and [that] major national governance bodies should have a majority of independent directors, including former athletes."

Looking ahead, Perko predicted that most of the changes will eventually occur within Division I because she said that schools within Division II and III are largely pleased with the current setup. Division I is the NCAA's top level with 315 schools, and it is the division that has experienced the most turmoil and scrutiny in recent months.

"Once we got into this, we really found out that many of the issues were the Division I level," agreed West Virginia athletic director Shane Lyons, the chairman of the Division I Council and a member of the constitution committee.

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