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Publish date: Aug 9, 2011

Emmert, university presidents discuss reform

By Ronnie Ramos
NCAA.org

University presidents, meeting here Tuesday as part of an NCAA-called summit, agreed that the current fiscal model for Division I intercollegiate athletics is not sustainable and that major changes are urgently needed.

The discussion focused on two major areas: developing a process for conferences to have greater flexibility in deciding how to provide more resources for student-athletes and saving money.

“We spent a lot of time discussing how we manage our resources – recognizing these are very challenging times,” said NCAA President Mark Emmert. “The presidents want to make sure they are using their dollars as efficiently as they can.”

There was strong consensus that resources need to support student-athletes. Presidents agreed that – given the vast disparity in budgets across Division I – a one-size-fits-all approach will not work.

The presidents decided to look into a series of student-athlete related issues – including full cost of attendance and multi-year scholarships – which conferences would have the option of adopting.

“We want to look at whether or not we can close the gap between the cost of going to school and the scholarship given to student-athletes,” Emmert said.

There was a strong feeling by many presidents that giving conferences the ability to provide such resources should be tied to higher academic performance.

Theoretically, conferences could opt to provide full cost of attendance with the condition of higher student-athlete academic performance. The rationale is that conferences that can afford to provide full cost of tuition should be expected to provide greater academic support.

“There’s no reason we can’t set higher expectation for conferences that have higher resources to help student-athletes perform better academically,” said Ed Ray, president of Oregon State and chair of the NCAA Executive Committee.

Presidents listened to a presentation highlighting the wide range of revenues and expenses in DI athletic department budgets. Generated revenues range from about $700,000 to $143 million. Last year, only 22 of the 337 DI schools generated more revenues than they had expenses.

“The reason we are here is that we have enormous threats and challenges to the collegiate models – pressures we’ve never seen before,” Emmert told the presidents. “This is a very complicated problem.  If there was an easy solution, we would have done it a long time ago.”

Presidents said their universities are facing major budget cutbacks and the entire school – including athletic departments – needs to live within its means.

“The key is that every university president is trying to figure out how to deploy their resources effectively and we talked about how to do that,” Emmert said. “How do you manage the resources that are available to you?”

The presidents also said change needs to happen quickly. “There is a clear commitment on my part and the part of the presidents that we convert conversation into action and do so rapidly,” Emmert said. “People are really in the mood to make significant changes and do it deliberately and thoughtfully; but doing it rapidly doesn’t mean it can’t be done thoughtfully.”

When the summit concludes Wednesday, Emmert said he expects the group to call for a fast timetable for decisions to be made. On the agenda Wednesday are discussions about how to deal with the attacks on the integrity of the intercollegiate model and how to embed academic success as a first expectation.

“We plan to make some decisions across very important areas in a matter of months and weeks, not in years.

“No one in the world believes we are capable of making significant change. So we need to prove that we can.”