My big questions ahead of the NCAA Convention next week
Good morning, and thanks for spending part of your day with Extra Points.
I'll be in San Antonio next Tuesday-Saturday for the NCAA Convention, along with several of my D1.ticker colleagues. If you're going to be in the area and would like to say hello, I'd love to talk to you. Please drop me a line at [email protected]
Last year was my first NCAA Convention, where the big story, beyond the ratification of the new constitution, was about the new D-I Transformation Committee. And now, a year later, the big topic ahead of the convention appears to be...the actual report from the Transformation Committee. If you haven't had a chance to read the whole thing yet, you can find it here.
I've reached out to a few folks in my network, but I'm very curious to know what other ADs, conference leaders, athletes and others in the industry think about these proposed changes. I hope to get many more reactions and insights from the convention center, conference rooms, and various hotel bars over the next week.
Here are a few of the specific questions I'm looking to better understand:
The Transformation Committee's final recommendations weren't that transformational. What's the real play to get Congress onboard?
I don't want to say that the committee didn't recommend any meaningful or significant reforms. They did! But anybody expecting to see 60 teams launched out of D-I, or universities openly endorsing a professional model, or anything substantive about NIL and player compensation at all...are going to be disappointed.
The report is pretty clear as to why their scope shrank a bit over the last 12 months:
In the vast majority of those cases — as it pertains to issues such as name, image and likeness standards, the employment status of student-athletes, and the unique interests of student-athletes in the highest revenue-generating athletic programs — this stems from legal and other uncertainties. The NCAA is prepared and eager to engage on these issues. There’s no question that finding fair, sustainable and equitable resolutions to each issue will be essential to Division I’s future. We simply need a clear, stable framework under which to address them.
Congress is the only entity that can grant that stability.
Rightly or wrongly, the NCAA and school-based leaders don't think they have the legal wiggle room to tackle any of these issues. They've been asking for congressional assistance for well over a year, and those efforts have gone exactly nowhere.
Hiring an ex-politico in Charlie Baker to be the new president is one move that might pay off...but I want to better understand the real nuts and bolts of the legislative strategy here. Very few lawmakers from either party have gone on the record supporting an antitrust exemption. What is the NCAA prepared to give up in order to get it? How are they trying to convince skeptical lawmakers, and the public? Who is going to lead that charm offensive? And what's the plan B if this doesn't work?
Mark Emmert was not able to win friends or influence people in D.C. Surely this isn't going to just be a Charlie Baker job, right?
Who is going to pay for this new spending? And how?
The final report calls for a variety of new investments and expectations for member institutions, including:
Requiring all Division I schools to provide medical coverage for athletically related injuries for a minimum of two years following graduation or completion of athletics experience.
Require all schools to provide current scholarship protections mandated for autonomy schools.
Require schools to attest that they provide career counseling and life skills programming to student-athletes that include, at minimum, the following modules: mental health; strength and conditioning; nutrition; NIL; financial literacy; transfer requirements; career preparation; diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging; and campus sexual violence prevention.
The committee recommends that the Board of Directors direct appropriate governance entities to review sports-sponsorship minimums in the future, including consideration of a model in which institutions are not permitted to count a sport toward meeting minimum sports-sponsorship requirements unless it demonstrates a certain level of financial commitment to student-athlete scholarships in that sport.
For many low majors, spending more money on scholarships, trainers, mental health specialists and health insurance will represent significant cost increases. I'm hoping to better understand potential dollar amount budget increases over the coming week, but back-of-the-napkin projections I heard from some ADs were well into the six figures mark.
Plenty of schools can find a way to absorb those new costs, via institutional support, cutting funds elsewhere, student fees, and other revenue sources. But not every school will be able to do that. The report floated the idea of potentially subsidizing those costs, particularly for HBCUs...which could work, but where does that money come from? Are high-resource schools going to be okay with potentially sending some of their NCAA Tournament money to help pay health insurance costs for Northern Arizona?
I want to better understand what kind of money we're talking about here, where it comes from, and what new revenue streams are possible.
We're not getting a 90+ team NCAA basketball tournament in the near future. But what about other postseasons?
I will freely admit, I'm more of a college football writer than I am a basketball writer, and there are plenty of sports that I just don't know the ins and outs as well as I'd like. I'm learning! But I'm not going to lie and pretend I am an expert on college soccer or field hockey.
If any part of the report caught the public attention, it was this line:
To ensure that NCAA Division I championships provide national-level competition among the best eligible student-athletes and teams, the Transformation Committee recommends that the governing sport and oversight committees for Division I championship team sports sponsored by more than 200 institutions should fully consider how to accommodate access for 25% of active member institutions in good standing with Division I membership requirements. Their considerations should account for impacts on the timing of the postseason, the total length of the postseason, necessary format changes, broadcast and other partners, budget resources and host entity event management.
I have asked ADs and conference leaders about basketball postseason expansion for months, and I've never heard anybody, even off the record, say they think expanding the basketball tournaments to 90%+ teams is a good idea. I do not believe current media partners would pay for that expansion, and I've never heard anything to suggest that is a priority.
But I don't think that 25% number came out of thin air, either. I want to better understand the arguments for potentially significantly expanding the postseason in sports like baseball, softball, volleyball or soccer. I want to understand what happens if the seeding process changes, who is pushing for dramatic changes, and what it means to "enhance the travel experience." I am hoping I can talk to folks over the next week or so to help me understand that better.
If you'd rather listen to folks talk about the NCAA Convention, or perhaps the college football National Championship Game, the CFP semifinals, or Homefield Apparel, well, you're in luck, because we have a new episode of Going For Two right here:
You can also listen to Going For Two on Apple Podcasts, or anywhere else you can download podcasts. We'll share more updates about what we're going to do with the show in 2023 after the convention... I imagine we'll do a show (or two?) from Texas next week. It's nice to be in person, after all.
I'm interested in hearing what all of you think about the convention, the committee, and other major issues in college sports. If I don't hear from you in the comments section or in my inbox, I hope to see you next week.
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