College 'CEOs' pushing NCAA change
Athletic directors want a larger stake in changes being made to NCAA governance
Athletic directors recently have found themselves stuck in the middle of a smoldering debate: defending a besieged collegiate model while acknowledging that athletes deserve more, including a stronger voice in decisions impacting their welfare.
It's an awkward position for the ADs, many of whom once were college athletes but have spent most or all of their professional careers as administrators. It's also a surprisingly empathetic position. See, the men and women leading athletic departments also have felt muzzled by a plodding, convoluted NCAA governance system that, in its effort to satisfy its many interest groups, has discouraged and ignored two of its most important constituents.
"We all felt," Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne said, "like our voices had been muted."
As revenues soar for schools, athletes receiving minimal compensation beyond scholarships have an easier time drumming up support. Salaries for athletic directors have grown -- nine earned $1 million or more in 2013, according to USA Today -- as has their influence, at least on their own campuses.
But a more effective governance system for athletes might first require a power surge for the athletic directors, which appears to be on the horizon. In April, the NCAA Division I Board of Directors endorsed a restructuring model that would give athletic directors a permanent spot on the future board. That spot would go to the chair of a group tentatively being called the "Council," which would be charged with handling day-to-day policy and legislative issues.
There's been a general agreement that athletic directors need more of a central role in NCAA governance. That's not been a debated matter. Athletic directors are the professionals on our campus.” -- Wake Forest president Nathan Hatch
Although the board still would include mostly university presidents -- right now, it is made up entirely of presidents and chancellors -- it would focus primarily on oversight and big-picture strategies. The Council would have final say on decisions regarding shared-governance rules among the conferences. And here's the kicker: the 38-member Council would be at least 60 percent athletic directors.
"There's been a general agreement that athletic directors need more of a central role in NCAA governance," said Wake Forest president Nathan Hatch, chair of the Division I Board of Directors. "That's not been a debated matter. Athletic directors are the professionals on our campus."
The board is now seeking feedback from the member institutions on the proposed changes before voting on the new Division I structure in August.
"It's absolutely critical," said Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips, vice president of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA). "We will not be able to get to this better place for college athletics without the leadership of athletic directors."
I keep telling my colleagues, 'Be careful what you ask for,' because they're going to pitch this ball to us to run with, subject to their oversight, as any board would. We're going to have the opportunity to be much more engaged and, therefore, the best have to be willing to serve.” -- Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke
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