FBS commissioners say NCAA changes are necessary

Ben Cook

July 28, 2013 at 2:12 pm.

Mike Slive is on board with helping out the student-athlete more than the system currently allows. (Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports)

After an offseason of grumbling about the governing body of college athletics — the NCAA — there is change in the air. For an interesting twist, Mark Emmert, the head honcho of the organization, agrees.

And the Southeastern Conference and commissioner Mike Slive are right out front leading the charge.

“There’s no one talking about this being some incremental change,” Emmert told the Indianapolis Star. “I think there’s an interest in some pretty fundamental change in the way decisions are made, both to accomodate those (financial) differences but also to deal with concerns people have about representation … in the policy debates.”

This has come to a head when the NCAA voted down an added stipend for athletes that the major schools wanted. It was voted down by the smaller budget schools in the FBS (Division I). It was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

“The NCAA has not been successful in meeting the full cost of attendance of our student-athletes, whether through the so-called miscellaneous expense allowance or some other model that provides broad access to additional funds,” SEC commissioner Mike Slive said.

“Conferences and their member institutions must be allowed to meet the needs of their student-athletes. In recent conversations with my commissioner colleagues, there appears to be a willingness to support a meaningful solution to this important change.”

“Following this year’s spring meetings in Destin, I wrote President Mark Emmert on behalf of SEC presidents and chancellors to communicate our view that it was important and necessary in the area of concussions for the NCAA to lead, organize and spearhead a four-part national effort.

One, to conduct further scientific research on cushions,” Slive said.

“We will continue to push for changes we believe are in the best interest of our student-athletes.”

Slive is not alone in his beliefs.

“We all have a sense that transformative change is going to have to happen,” Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said. “This is not a time when trimming around the edges is going to make very much difference.

“I don’t think we can at this point in time move forward, and we certainly haven’t been able to configure an agenda that made the changes we need to make.”

The biggest bone of contention is how the schools from the five major conferences, the cash cows that are driving college athletics, are often forced to dance to the tune set by the majority, which includes all the smaller revenue producing schools in the FBS. This is leading to a solution that has a separate division for the power conferences instead of the current one size fits all approach of the NCAA.

“As we push for change, we are encouraged by the NCAA’s ongoing review of its governing structure,” Slive said. “Moving forward, there are important questions that need to be answered.

For example, what changes need to be made to the NCAA structure to provide significant roles for the stakeholders, the presidents, chancellors, athletic directors, institutional administrators, conference administrators, and coaches?

What is the proper role, function and composition and size of the NCAA board of directors?

Do we need all of the services provided by the NCAA’s national office, its many committees and task forces, or are some of these services better provided elsewhere?

And how do we streamline the NCAA committee and legislative processes to provide leaders and visionaries who will ensure the NCAA’s future?

“It is incumbent that the NCAA provide the leadership as outlined in the letter while each of us in our conferences contribute to the research and the development of best practices,” Slive said.

“In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt provided the incentive for the creation of the NCAA. His leadership and his commitment to his philosophy of the strenuous life, as he called it, demonstrated the belief still present today that the uniquely American combination of athletic competition and higher education does, indeed, have a place on our university campuses.

“College athletics has grown to become an integral part not only of education, but of the American life and the American culture. In order to deal with these and other national issues in an effective way, intercollegiate athletics requires remarkable and innovative leadership to slash through our Gordian knot. Our challenges are complex, they always have been, and they always will be.

“With that said, we have supported and continue to support the NCAA as the appropriate governing organization for intercollegiate athletics. But at the same time, however, we will continue to push for changes we believe are in the best interest of our student-athletes. In the words of James Baldwin, not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced,” Slive said.

“What I’d like to see is an explicit commitment by higher education through the conferences for funding and also to the athlete at the time they sign, that if you come up short,” said Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany.

“So I try to focus a little bit more on the outcomes that we like to see at the conference and a little bit less on whether or not the NCAA will be restructured. There’s a lot of political momentum for change at the NCAA.”

“And from all of my conversations with all of my colleagues, they think change is at hand. It’s a

matter of doing the detailed work on it,” Delany said.” I don’t think it’s going to be very adversarial, and I don’t really think that the need to threaten or walk is going to be there, because I think everybody really wants to take us to a place where we can do our business.”

“There certainly hasn’t been anyone pursuing (a split from the NCAA) seriously,” Emmert said. “The interest that I hear from everyone, including those (major football) commissioners, is to try and find a way to meet the needs of all the membership inside the association.”