After a quarter century under their current bylaws, the NCAA will vote on a new constitution tomorrow at their convention that will peel their grip, knuckle by desperately grasping knuckle, off of the reins of college athletics regulation. Could it be that the NCAA is actually doing the right thing for once? Sort of, but this is mostly happening because the Supreme Court unanimously told them that they had to. Of course, there will be adjustments and clarifications on name, image, and likeness rules, but the release of power goes much deeper than that.
As we all know, the NCAA in its current form honors the longstanding tradition of punishing the teams that cooperate with them by grabbing the low-hanging fruit, rather than actually trying to investigate the schools that refuse to speak with them. To the disappointment of exactly no one (aside from whichever sadistic lawyer they employed to make these decisions), this practice may also be out the window. Under the proposed constitution, the NCAA will be scaling back their role in doling out punishments to schools, particularly addressing the issue of sanctions that punish entire groups of athletes for the infraction of a single player or coach, such as postseason bans or scholarship reductions.
The NCAA Board of Governors, the group that makes the rules, will be severely cut in size, going from 21 to nine members.The Board will also now be required to include a recently graduated athlete. The decentralization of sanctioning makes for a lessened need for a large Board — and at this point, you may be asking, if the NCAA won’t be doing the punishing and regulating, who will be?
The three divisions of college sports have a lot of work ahead of them in the next few months, as this new constitution places the burden of rule creation and enforcement largely on them, and it’s due by August, when the new constitution will officially go into effect. This split takes care of the antitrust issues that the NCAA was facing, but it also leaves a lot up for questioning at the moment. Without a single governing body, will Division I split into two groups of differing interests, along the lines of FBS and FCS schools? How would this affect all the other sports at these schools? What will spending limits and revenue distribution look like, if there are any?
These new recommendations for the divisions’ future rule enforcement may also take a hefty chunk of the blame off of administrators and athletic directors who claim they had “no idea” about some infraction or another perpetrated within their program. What this ends up looking like is holding coaches accountable, which isn’t really an issue when we’re looking at the salaries of high-level football or basketball coaches, but which could legitimately affect coaches of smaller teams who aren’t bringing in millions of dollars without holding administration accountable whatsoever.
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The NCAA isn’t doing this out of the goodness of their hearts — they can sense the tides are changing, and they’ve pretty much been told by the government that they’re running out of time on their current authority style. One can hope that this shift to smaller, more specific governing bodies will make for improvements and amendments within the current rule structure, but the enormous differences between self-interested schools and programs will certainly prove a challenge in the coming months.