Baltimore Sun

Many chal­lenges ahead for NCAA

Af­ter NIL, re­struc­tur­ing Divi­sion I tops on list

- By Ralph D. Russo Sports · College Sports · National Collegiate Athletic Association · NCAA Division I · State University of New York at Brockport · New York University · New York · Ohio · Ohio State University · Alabama · Atlantic Coast Conference · Southeastern Conference

As the NCAA moves to­ward land­mark changes that will em­power ath­letes more than ever, the next big de­bate within col­lege sports is on the hori­zon: How to re­form and re­struc­ture Divi­sion I?

A sur­vey of col­lege sports lead­ers, in­clud­ing univer­sity pres­i­dents, con­fer­ence com­mis­sion­ers and ath­letic di­rec­tors, was re­leased ear­lier this week by the aca­demic watch­dog Knight Com­mis­sion on In­ter­col­le­giate Ath­let­ics.

The sur­vey re­sults went pub­lic the day be­fore the NCAA Divi­sion I Coun­cil ap­proved two pro­pos­als that will lift long­stand­ing re­stric­tions on col­lege ath­letes.

On Wed­nes­day, the coun­cil rub­ber-stamped pro­posed leg­is­la­tion that will al­low col­lege ath­letes to earn money off their names, im­ages and like­nesses — through things such as per­sonal en­dorse­ment deals and ap­pear­ance fees — as never be­fore.

The coun­cil also gave the goa­head to ex­pand­ing the one-time trans­fer ex­cep­tion to all ath­letes, giv­ing play­ers in rev­enue-gen­er­at­ing sports such as foot­ball and bas­ket­ball the ability to switch schools one time as an un­der­grad and be im­me­di­ately el­i­gi­ble to com­pete. Cur­rent rules re­quire ath­letes in those sports, along with base­ball and hockey, to sit out a year af­ter trans­fer­ring as un­der­grad­u­ates.

Both pro­pos­als now go to mem­ber­ship for com­ment and feed­back and could be tweaked be­fore they go back to the Coun­cil for a vote in Jan­uary.

Fed­eral law­mak­ers still need to weigh in on name, im­age and like­ness rules, but NIL com­pen­sa­tion and less re­stric­tive trans­fer rules should be in place for the 2021-22 school year.

Those is­sues, which had been de­bated and ar­gued for years as the NCAA held firm to its old rules, have now been set­tled in fa­vor of what col­lege sports lead­ers now frame as mod­ern­iza­tion.

The next big project in col­lege sports, es­pe­cially as in­sti­tu­tions deal with the fi­nan­cial fall­out of the coro­n­avirus pan­demic, could be de­cid­ing what Divi­sion I should be. Or more pre­cisely, what do the schools that make up D-I want to be?

“I think there is go­ing to be a great deal of in­ter­est in ‘Where does my in­sti­tu­tion fit best in this en­vi­ron­ment?’ ” said Nancy Zim­pher, for­mer chan­cel­lor of the State Univer­sity of

New York and a mem­ber of the Knight Com­mis­sion.

Zim­pher said univer­sity pres­i­dents should be will­ing to ask hard ques­tions about what kind of in­vest­ments they want to make in foot­ball and bas­ket­ball in the hope the rev­enue from those sports can fund oth­ers.

“I hope that cam­puses and con­fer­ences will open them­selves to some new ar­range­ments to solve some of these heavy fi­nan­cial chal­lenges,” said Zim­pher, chair­woman of the Knight Com­mis­sion’s col­lege sports gov­er­nance and structure com­mit­tee.

The sur­vey found strong sup­port for re­form­ing the way Divi­sion I is gov­erned (74%) and re­struc­tur­ing D-I al­to­gether (73%). NCAA Divi­sion I is com­prised of 351 schools that range from mas­sive Power Five foot­ball schools such as Ohio State, Alabama and Texas to small pri­vate universiti­es mostly focused on try­ing to ac­cess the lu­cra­tive NCAA men’s bas­ket­ball tour­na­ment. Ath­letic bud­gets range from $4 mil­lion to more than $200 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to data col­lected by the Knight Com­mis­sion.

There is far less con­sen­sus on what needs to be done to ad­dress the prob­lem.

Among re­spon­dents at schools with­out foot­ball pro­grams, 65% said they would likely fa­vor separat­ing the high­est level of Divi­sion I foot­ball (FBS) from the NCAA and creat­ing a new body to man­age that sport. There are 130 FBS schools.

But 42% of re­spon­dents at FBS schools op­pose that type of change.

Among Power Five re­spon­dents, 61% said they were very or some­what likely to sup­port the cre­ation of a sep­a­rate new divi­sion within the NCAA for the Power Five to com­pete in sports other than men’s and women’s bas­ket­ball.

There was broad sup­port for keep­ing March Mad­ness as is. The men’s bas­ket­ball tour­na­ment gen­er­ates most of the NCAA’s rev­enue, which sur­passed $1 bil­lion in 2019.

But while those in Power Five would like for those wealthy con­fer­ences — the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC — to have even more au­ton­omy, nearly 60% of re­spon­dents from the other 27 Divi­sion I leagues, in­clud­ing the other five in FBS, op­pose creat­ing a fourth NCAA Divi­sion.

Zim­pher said the Knight Com­mis­sion would like to take a role in creat­ing that con­sen­sus by bringing to­gether the ul­ti­mate de­ci­sion-mak­ers: univer­sity pres­i­dents.

“We don’t have one body that re­ally speaks for every­body,” she said. “... But the pres­i­dents are in charge.”

 ?? MICHAEL CON­ROY/AP ?? The NCAA ap­proved pro­pos­als that will lift re­stric­tions on col­lege ath­letes.
MICHAEL CON­ROY/AP The NCAA ap­proved pro­pos­als that will lift re­stric­tions on col­lege ath­letes.

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