NCAA takes first step in reorganization with early draft of new constitution

·3 min read

The NCAA would move most rules-making and enforcement authority away from the central office and hand it to the association’s three competitive divisions and their respective conferences under a draft of a new constitution released Monday.

The document, which will be discussed further during a special NCAA convention Nov. 15, represents the first step in a fundamental reorganization of how NCAA sports operate. The association’s leadership has been under pressure from state and federal legislators, the courts and its member schools about issues ranging from athlete welfare to rules enforcement.

And the draft does include increased involvement of athletes in governing boards and attempts to address gender equity, diversity and inclusion and health issues. But on health matters, it does not provide enforceable standards that have been called for by some members of Congress.

Monday’s proposal is designed set the stage for more detailed governance discussions within each division. In the high-profile Division I – whose roughly 350 schools are held together primarily by the men’s basketball tournament -- those conversations have the potential to become contentious and follow the various financial fault lines among blocs of schools.

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There are differences not only among the Football Bowl Subdivision, the Football Championship Subdivision and the schools that do not have football teams, but also within the FBS – where schools from the Power Five conferences sometimes feel they are being constrained by schools in the Group of Five conferences.

The NCAA's current constitution includes not only general association-wide operating principles, but also, for example, specifics on the composition and voting procedures for Division I's main rules-making groups, its Board of Directors and Council.

The draft says each of the three divisions “shall have the independent authority to organize itself,” which includes determining its own governing structure and membership, setting its own standards for academic eligibility and determining “the methods of investigation and adjudication” of rules violations.

Rules enforcement has become a major area of contention, as NCAA investigations have dragged on for years and often resulted in sanctions on teams seen as unfair to athletes who have joined those programs years after rules violations were committed. While the draft constitution defers to the divisions on the specifics, it calls for each division’s enforcement setup to “prescribe appropriate penalties in a timely manner” and “ensure to the greatest extent possible that penalties imposed for infractions do not punish programs or student-athletes innocent of the infraction(s).”

The draft would reduce the size of the NCAA’s top association-wide rules-making group, the Board of Governors, from 21 members to nine and require that one of the nine be a “graduated NCAA student-athlete, who shall have graduated not more than four years prior to appointment.” At present, athletes have no voting representation on the Board of Governors, which primarily comprises college presidents.

The association’s commitment to gender equity in the conduct of its championships has been the subject of a two-part examination from an outside law firm that was prompted by revelations last winter of unequal treatment of participants in the Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. The new draft constitution states that the NCAA’s activities “shall be conducted in a manner free of gender bias.”

The new document also would require schools’ athletics programs to have personnel designated as “independent healthcare administrator” and “athletics diversity and inclusion designer,” although the schools “will have the flexibility to assign duties associated with each position that best serves the needs of the institution and student-athletes."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NCAA takes first step in reorganization with draft of new constitution