NCAA considering direct student-athlete input, autonomy for major conferences

Tuesday March 4th, 2014

A new proposal would give student-athletes a vote on the NCAA's Board of Directors. A new proposal would give student-athletes a vote on the NCAA's Board of Directors. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

The NCAA is considering a new governance model that could include direct input from student-athletes.

The NCAA announced Tuesday that it is discussing various changes to its current governance model, including the size and composition of the Board of Directors and the NCAA's decision-making bodies. One proposal would include a 38-member group tentatively named "the Council," which would be comprised mostly of athletic directors but would include two student-athletes.

The NCAA is also considering adding a student-athlete vote to the Board of Directors.

One of the new faces in the proposed boardroom could belong to a student-athlete. Although student-athletes now have non-voting seats on councils that report to the current Board of Directors, they have never had positions on the board itself. For the new Board of Directors, the steering committee is seeking feedback from membership on whether the student-athletes should have a vote in addition to a seat.

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Tuesday's announcement also included good, albeit vague, news for the five major conferences. Rumors have swirled concerning whether the country's most profitable leagues would one day split off from the NCAA to control their own policies. But the NCAA now says those conference could enjoy some legislative autonomy in the near future.

Another major change to the current governance model would involve granting some legislative autonomy to the five major conferences (Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Ten Conference, Big 12 Conference, Pacific-12 Conference and Southeastern). The steering committee has more to discuss in this area: More work needs to be done to explicitly state the areas of autonomy and how decisions would be made among the five conferences, though the steering committee is discussing a year-long legislative process. The committee also must discuss a process for adjusting these areas of autonomy in the future.

One thing the steering committee has determined regarding autonomy for the five conferences is that any matter not included on the list of areas for autonomy or football would then fall into shared governance to be decided by the collective group.

The revamped Board of Directors would likely have 17 members, according to Wake Forest President Nathan Hatch, the chair of the current Board of Directors and the NCAA's steering committee, which announced the proposed changes. The chair of "the Council," an athletic director, would have a seat on the Board of Directors, but it has not been decided whether or not that person would be a voting member. These are big proposals from an NCAA which has come under fire in recent years for its treatment of student-athletes and umbrella policies that govern athletic programs of vastly different sizes and resources. The proposals are just in the beginning stages, however, and the NCAA said there will be "more conversations planned over the coming weeks."

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