Source: USA TODAY
NEW YORK — NCAA president Mark Emmert said he believes a new NCAA governance model could be in place as early as next summer.
Emmert, speaking Wednesday at the IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum, discussed potential changes to the governance structure, along the lines of what athletic directors and conference commissioners have outlined.
Generally speaking, the format would give the Big 5 conferences — ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC — more autonomy in decision-making and authority in other areas. It would also give them the ability to implement certain policies for just schools in their conferences. The new model would also give athletic directors a key and more direct role in policy-making and implementation.
An easy comparison to make is that of the United Nations’ Security Council, a small group of members with explicit power to make decisions that affect the entire membership.
Emmert suggested that Big 5 members would look at areas where they could improve the welfare of student-athletes, such as implementing a stipend to cover the full cost of attendance, providing more meals and addressing agent rules. Because those conferences have greater resources than smaller conferences, they can afford to pay for some of these things. Conferences outside of the Big 5 also could adopt these practices if they want; “It would be all inclusive and provide flexibility,” Emmert said.
When asked if he believed if presidents of the NCAA membership will go along with a new governance model or if the implicit threat of big schools breaking away to form a new division would be necessary once again.
“I hope not,” Emmert said. “They’re certainly going to get the things that make sense. So far, among the presidents in particular, this has been a really collegial conversation. Everybody understands or seems to understand what the high-budget schools need, and there’s an increasing recognition of what the small-budget schools need. I think they’re going to end up in a pretty amicable place without anybody having to do threats or innuendos.”
The next formal step toward changing the governance structure could come at the NCAA’s annual convention in January. Emmert said there is a subcommittee of presidents working on this issue, and the subcommittee could take a proposal to the full board at its meeting in April. Then, the proposal can be passed or pushed to a meeting over the summer.
“At the end of the day, I think they’re going to wind up in a good spot,” Emmert said.
During his talk Emmert made sure that these likely changes — which involve the potential of student-athlete stipends, something he has championed for more than two years — would not be confused with paying players.
Even if different conferences paid different stipend amounts (depending on living costs on various campuses and parts of the country), Emmert said that’s not a concern because tuition already varies.
“There’s absolutely no interest among the membership in turning student-athletes into paid employees,” Emmert said. “There’s nobody interested in that at all. That would destroy collegiate athletics in everyone’s minds. There is an interest in making sure that full cost of attendance is covered. … That number varies from school to school. It can vary from $0 to $6,000. A debate the members will have to have is, are we going to allow the closing of that gap? And if so, how high can we go?
“No one right now wants to go above full cost of attendance, that a student-athlete could get what it costs to be a student, but they’re students, not unionized employees, not somebody that’s on the payroll.”
Emmert also shot down ideas of creating a system of delayed compensation, in which athletes would be paid for their services after they leave college. It’s more likely, Emmert said, that there would be scholarship funds or the like that can help athletes return to get a degree. That’s another topic that will likely be addressed after the governance structure is resolved.
Emmert also touched on a variety of topics:
• On the Miami decision, which he called a low point of his year: “It was an enormous case, unprecedented with someone sitting in prison providing all this information, trying to ascertain what’s fact and what’s not. … It was hard and complicated, but at the same time everyone, me and everyone, was interested in moving it along at a faster pace. Miami certainly was. … Everybody wants these cases to move along. It’s a lot of pressure. Along the way, some people made some decisions to cut some corners in ways that were grossly inappropriate. If I go back and look at myself, I would say, ‘Gee, I was pushing like everybody.’ At the end of the day, the president is responsible for the tone at the top. You’ve got to say, why would somebody who works in the organization think it’s OK to cut corners? I’ll take that one. That’s certainly on me. … We’re still finishing up a review of all the regulatory processes so make sure we have the oversight the membership feels comfortable with.
• On facing criticism, being called an absentee president, ‘king of the press conference,’ etc.: “I disagree with you about the absentee leader. The membership is all over the United States. That’s where I am. My job is to go out and work with and listen to presidents, ADs, coaches, everybody. For me personally, and it’s something that we’ve been working hard at as a national office, we’ve got to be much better, I’ve got to be much better at listening to people, hearing what they have to say, being more patient in getting things done. Making sure this is an association that is about the membership, not about Mark Emmert.”
• On the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit and the chances of settlement: “Right now, we’re not having any settlement talks. If their goal is to move toward a pay-for-play model, which is what it seems to be, there’s no consideration of that at all.”
• On the NFL concussion settlement: “We’ve certainly been tracking all of that. We work with and talk with the NFL all the time. We’ve been working with them and continue to work with them on a variety of things around concussion prevention and study, in particular. We’re all trying to figure out from Pop Warner to NFL what the real science and medicine of concussion and other injuries as well, but concussions are the big issue right now, of course. … We have a significant advantage in that most of the places that do research are member universities. We’ve got an extraordinary amount of expertise. On the legal side, we have a lot of lawsuits as you are aware, that are coming on now on the heels of the NFL suit. They’re different. I’m not at liberty to discuss those. We feel pretty good about where we are.”
• On the APU player protest/movement: “I reached out to some student-athletes, talked to a number of them about it.” One was a member of Georgia’s student-athletic advisory committee (not someone who wore an APU band, but someone whose teammates did). “I chatted with him and also some (players) that ADs connected me with.”