Council identifies concepts for Division I redesign
By Michelle Brutlag Hosick
The Division I Leadership Council has identified some of the major concepts members believe the Board of Directors should consider as the division prepares to discuss its membership and governance structures.
At its Oct. 24 meeting in Indianapolis, the council tackled the job in small groups by answering a series of questions designed to identify what the division needs from a new structure, where points of agreement exist, where differences require more flexibility and what obstacles lay in their path.
There was a considerable amount of agreement between the members of the council, who represent all three subdivisions and a wide range of job responsibilities and resource levels in Division I. The desire to keep the division intact without further subdivision was prevalent.
Almost everyone agrees that health and safety and the student-athlete experience — through access to championships and other opportunities — should continue to be priorities. Most members have a strong desire to preserve the division’s current academic standards, each sport’s scholarship limits and the revenue distribution model.
Council members agree that the true “level playing field” between schools cannot be achieved by making rules that limit the ability of schools with more resources to use them. Members stress that in some areas rules could become more permissive to allow schools who can afford to take advantage of the flexibility to do so.
Many believe that student-athlete benefits, including a change in the definition of a full athletics scholarship to include the full cost of attendance, could be an area of compromise. The majority of council members also agree that more autonomy could be provided in meals, student-athlete development — including academic support — and personnel limits.
The group also discussed the roles of different governance bodies in the structure, debating the benefits and disadvantages of various models. All say that a presidentially led board of directors should be focused on long-range, strategic items and leave the day-to-day operations of Division I to the levels below them.
To support their position, council members repeatedly cited the success of smaller, more focused groups like those formed to create new recruiting models for men’s and women’s basketball and football. Members tout the benefits of using people from all related groups that have an intimate knowledge of a subject, study an issue for a period of time, ask feedback from the membership through surveys and conferences, and then come forward with recommendations for change. The group had different ideas about how to build a structure that would produce similar successes.
Council chair Noreen Morris, commissioner of the Northeast Conference, said she is pleased with the group’s effort to be more proactive in developing ideas for the future of Division I. Morris cites two crucial priorities for conversations moving forward: rebuild the membership’s trust in the governance structure; and repair the mutual trust between the presidents who guide the division’s direction and the practitioners who develop policies to execute that direction.
“We’re starting to build consensus on the needs of the organization as a whole, beginning to develop common areas of interest where we can have shared governance and other areas where we can explore more permissive rules,” Morris said. “We are moving away from the concept of competitive equity and toward a model that espouses fair competition, as was laid out by the Rules Working Group. But the only way we’ll be successful is if we rebuild the trust in the system.”
Morris will present the group’s thoughts to the Division I Board of Directors and Presidential Advisory Group on Oct. 30. On Oct. 29, the board and PAG will meet with various groups with an interest in the future of the division. Input from those groups and feedback gathered from a survey of Division I members will be used to shape the agenda for the Division I Governance Dialogue, a meeting of all Division I members planned in conjunction with the 2014 NCAA Convention in San Diego.