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NCAA Board Approves Recommendations for Division I Reform

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SAN ANTONIO — At the NCAA convention on Thursday, outgoing president Mark Emmert took his leave, new president Charlie Baker stepped in, and the state of college sports was declared perilous.

“As a collective enterprise, we are both thriving and threatened,” said Baylor President Linda Livingstone, who is chair of the NCAA Board of Governors.

Livingstone managed most of the state’s annual address of collegiate sports with the NCAA in a period of transition and transformation.

Earlier in the day, the Division I board of directors approved a series of recommendations aimed at reforming the top tier of collegiate sports, from membership standards to the size of championship brackets.

But Livingstone reiterated what has become a familiar refrain from college sports leaders during their time onstage, saying federal intervention is necessary.

“We need a safe haven to some extent for antitrust complaints,” Livingstone said. “We are not looking for, nor do we need, a broad antitrust exemption. But we do need the ability to make common sense rules without unlimited threats of litigation.”

Amidst a patchwork of state laws, the NCAA is scrambling to regulate how athletes can now be compensated for the use of their names, likenesses and likenesses. The association lifted the ban on athletes being paid by sponsors and endorsers in July 2021 and many within collegiate sports fear this has quickly become a way to induce recruits or pay for the game.

There are also several moves to grant employee status to collegiate athletes.

Livingstone said that while it’s essential that collegiate athletes not become employees of the schools they attend, that doesn’t mean they can’t eventually be compensated.

“That’s one of the questions we’re working on, trying to answer that question,” she said during a press conference following her speech to members. “That’s why protecting the status of our student-athletes is so important, that they’re seen as a sort of unique status on our campus, that they wouldn’t be employees.”

Baker, the former Republican governor of Massachusetts, was hired to lead the NCAA because of his reputation as a consensus builder in a largely Democratic state.

He conceded that passing federal legislation is a challenge, but not having it might not be an option.

“I believe there are serious problems with just letting this train roll without doing something to deal with the fallout that collegiate sports are currently facing,” he said at the news conference after speaking briefly about the association.

Baker doesn’t start until March 1st. He attended the convention on a mini audition tour. He said his notes from recent days of meetings with NCAA officials, school administrators, conference commissioners and athletes filled an entire notebook.

Emmert thanked the members for allowing him to serve at the top of the NCAA for 12 years and congratulated them on making big changes to collegiate sports that benefited athletes.

And he said he was “absolutely delighted” with the choice of his successor.

“It has to be a challenging role. You know this Charlie, you know this is no cakewalk. Anything but that,” Emmert said.

Livingstone has been an active participant in the NCAA’s recent efforts to reform internally as part of the division’s transformation committee. The committee released its final report last week, and approval from the DI board of directors came Thursday at the convention.

“Keep in mind these are concepts at this point,” said Georgia President Jere Morehead, chairman of the board. “So there is still a lot of work to be done on the details, but tremendous progress has been made today. The board was very adamant in its support of student-athletes and most of the transformation committee’s recommendations focused on how to improve the student-athlete experience. student-athletes. athletes”.

The report called for more sport-by-sport governance in Division I, more athlete involvement in governance, and higher expectations for DI schools with the goal of creating a more uniform experience for athletes.

Transformation committee co-chairs Greg Sankey, commissioner of the Southeastern Conference, and Julie Cromer, athletic director at Ohio State University, reiterated in a joint statement that Division I’s work of transformation will continue beyond the work of the committee.

“We are confident these important changes will meet the needs of student-athletes because they are rooted in the student-athlete perspective,” they said. “In fact, we are confident that the voices of student-athletes have never been more prominent in shaping how collegiate sports are managed.”

The committee recommended allowing 25% of teams in sports sponsored by at least 200 schools to compete in annual championships. This opens the door to a possible expansion of the popular March Madness basketball tournaments from 68 to as many as 90 teams each.

The board also approved the creation of a second 32-team postseason tournament in Division I women’s basketball. The tournament would be similar to the men’s NIT, which is owned and operated by the NCAA.

The tournament was part of the recommendations of an independent gender equality review and is intended to provide an equal number of NCAA-funded postseason opportunities in men’s and women’s basketball.