April 26, 2015

New vice president of Division I governance Kevin Lennon, a three-decade veteran of the NCAA, spent about 40 minutes talking with The Associated Press recently. Here are some of his responses on a variety of topics facing the NCAA:

On his overall vision: ''I think there's a great sense out there that this collegiate model is extremely important. It's important to our students. It's important to our institutions, and I think it's important to the public. And there's no question that there are threats. There's the external threats that come from litigation that directly attacks the collegiate model, and then there are the internal threats in making sure we can kind of govern ourselves in a way that's most productive and effective to help our students.''

On which legal case presents the greatest threat to college sports: ''I think it's hard to not look at the (Jeffrey) Kessler case and really say that that's just an attack on the collegiate model itself because of the fact that it begins to raise issues of pay-for-play and deviate in significant ways from the educational purpose and focus we have for our student-athletes. I think it's probably the greatest threat that we have to the model itself and is really just an anathema to higher education and to our student-athletes.''

On the belief big schools will eventually separate from the rest of Division I: ''I'm hearing kind of the opposite because people recognize we need to all come together to make this work. There's a lot at stake.''

On what issues he believes the five power conferences will seek autonomy for this fall: ''I know there continues to be great concerns regarding time demands on student-athletes, and that I think is a concern that really spreads across all of Division I - do we have the appropriate balance of athletics and academics to help not only the at-risk student-athletes but also those who maybe are high-performing who want to improve the quality of their experience while they're on campus?''

On goals for the next year: ''The first thing I really want is the re-engagement of our Division I membership and the real sense of shared responsibility that this is their agenda. And that it's going to take their collective efforts to sustain and enhance this Division I collegiate model. Secondly, that there is an increased confidence the agenda set forth is the right one, and while everyone may not agree on all the outcomes that they've felt that their voice has been heard. ... Third, that people have confidence in the council structure and the board of directors is helping to meet the goals set out in the new structure. If we do those things, the agenda we talked about will be advanced.''

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