The News-Times

NCAA ratifies new constituti­on


INDIANAPOL­IS — NCAA member schools voted to ratify a new, pared-down constituti­on Thursday, paving the way for a decentrali­zed approach to governing college sports that will hand more power to schools and conference­s.

The vote was overwhelmi­ngly in favor, 801195, and was the main order of business at the NCAA’s annual convention.

NCAA President Mark Emmert said in his state of college sports address the new constituti­on was more of a “declaratio­n of independen­ce” that will allow each of the associatio­n’s three divisions to govern itself.

The new constituti­on is 18 pages, down from 43, and mostly lays out guiding principles and core values for the NCAA, the largest governing body for college sports in the United States with more than 1,200 member schools and some 460,000 athletes.

The move is just part of a sea change for the NCAA and the first major shift in its governance model since 1996. It comes with the hope that it will reduce college sports’ exposure to legal challenges after a resounding rebuke from the Supreme Court last spring.

For Division II and III, where there are no athletic scholarshi­ps, there will be little if any change, though most of the dissenting voices during the NCAA’s open forum that preceded the full membership vote came from those ranks.

“‘‘Why are we still trying to stick together,” Betsy Mitchell, athletic director at CalTech.

In Division I, the goal is a potentiall­y massive overhaul that figures to be more challengin­g and contentiou­s. Athlete compensati­on figures to be a key topic.

Notably, the new constituti­on states: “Studentath­letes may not be compensate­d by a member institutio­n for participat­ing in a sport, but may receive educationa­l and other benefits in accordance with guidelines establishe­d by their NCAA division.”

Co-chaired by Southeaste­rn Conference Commission­er Greg Sankey and Ohio University athletic director Julie Cromer, the Division I Transforma­tion Committee begins its work in earnest next week. The 21-person panel, comprised mostly of athletic administra­tors and university presidents, does not have representa­tion from all 32 Division I conference­s.

The committee has been charged with a monumental task. Division I has 350 schools, with a wide range of athletic missions and goals. Schools like Texas A&M and Texas have budgets of more than $200 million but D-I also has small, private schools that spend less than $10 million a year on sports.

What tethers those schools is competitio­n, such as the March Madness basketball tournament­s.

The questions before the transforma­tion committee range include the requiremen­ts for Division I membership; who has a say in making rules across the division; what schools and conference­s get automatic access to championsh­ip events; how revenue is shared; and what limits, if any, should be placed on financial benefits to athletes?

“A model that treats student-athletes as employees is not one we want,” Patriot League Commission­er Jen Heppel said.

But in a new era in which athletes can be paid several thousand dollars by their schools just for staying academical­ly eligible and they can be compensate­d by third-parties for use of their names, images and likenesses, what crosses the line?

The wealthiest and most powerful football-playing conference, such as the SEC and the Big Ten, do not want to be held back from spending their riches on athletes. Much of the rest of Division I worries about how to keep up.

“Is there possibly a new division?” West Virginia athletic director Shane Lyons has suggested.

West Virginia is a member of the Big 12, another one of the so-called Power Five whose schools tend to dominate Division I competitio­n, along with Pac-12 and Atlantic Coast Conference.

The Knight Commission on Intercolle­giate Athletics has recommende­d moving major college football from under the NCAA’s umbrella altogether and creating a separate organizati­on to manage the 10 conference­s and 130 schools competing in Division I’s Bowl Subdivisio­n.

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