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NCAA recommendations call for bigger championships

The NCAA Division I Transformation Committee is recommending stronger sport-specific governance, higher expectations for DI schools to create a more consistent experience for athletes, and allowing 25% of teams in certain sports to compete in championships.

The committee’s final report was released Tuesday and will be submitted to the Division I Board of Directors ahead of the NCAA convention next week in San Antonio.

Led by Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey and Ohio University Athletic Director Julie Kromer, a 21-member committee made up primarily of college athletic administrators and university presidents has held weekly meetings for much of the past year.

The report mainly clarifies and details concepts that Sankey, Kromer and others have been discussing publicly for several weeks.

The goal was to reform the highest and most profitable level of college athletics, which includes over 350 schools. The result will be changes that may go largely unnoticed by college sports fans.

The most noticeable change concerns participation in the championship. The 25% recommendation for all sports sponsored by at least 200 schools opens the door to a possible expansion of March Madness basketball tournaments from 68 to 90 teams each.

But the committee’s recommendations represent the first step in a process that could take years. This applies to most recommendations, not just participation in the championship.

No school will be removed from Division I, and the committee recommended that schools be given approximately two years to meet expanded membership expectations.

The committee also said that NCAA proceeds could be used to subsidize schools in need of help to meet new membership expectations.

Notable recommendations include:

– Require schools to create “a direct route to permanent clinical services by a licensed mental health professional dedicated exclusively to serving student-athletes.”

Schools and conferences should create student/athlete advisory committees, similar to those used by the NCAA, to allow athletes to be more involved in decision making.

— Demand greater accountability, training and certification of coaches.

The committee also recommended expanding allowable benefits for athletes to include more travel expenses, elite out-of-school training, incidental educational expenses, and extra money for housing and meals.

The committee also recommended that the membership requirements for the top Division I football, known as the Bowl Subdivision, be reviewed. These requirements are currently mostly tied to minimum attendance.

As part of governance, the committee recommended the establishment of sports-specific oversight committees, similar to those currently used in basketball and football. A movement to decentralize the management of college athletics. was spurred on by decision of the Supreme Court unanimous decision v. NCAA in June 2021 in an antitrust case.

Shortly after this decision, Mark Emmert, now outgoing NCAA president, called for a change in the power structure associations to create a more unregulated version of college sports. First of all, The NCAA has simplified its charterslashing it by more than half to focus on the association’s overarching goals: providing broad opportunities for participation in college sports and keeping students engaged.

This set the stage for the broader reform of Division I, where there are 363 Division I schools with athletic budgets ranging from over $100 million a year to under $10 million. The transformation committee was tasked with looking into DI membership qualifications, athlete benefits, access to championships, revenue sharing, governance, enforcement, and transfer rules.

From the very beginning, Sledge tried to temper expectations on the work of the committee, pointing out that what qualifies as a DI transformation was never clearly defined by the board.

Over the past few months, it has become clear that while reforms will and can be implemented, the committee’s recommendations regarding sport-specific periods of time when athletes may transition and keep the immediate right to participate have already been taken – radical changes will not happen.

Instead, the committee referred several issues to the Subcommittee on Modernizing the Rules of the NCAA Division I Legislative Committee, such as removing the appointment of a volunteer coach and limiting the number of recruiting visits.

To the DI Council, the committee recommended revising the rules regarding the participation of athletes in professional drafts and the use of agents.

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Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at http://www.appodcasts.com

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