The NCAA Board of Governors agreed to a new constitution to govern college sports, sending the revised document to a vote by the association’s full membership this month. The move will trigger a reexamination of Division I requirements as well.
With the advent of Name, Image and Likeness rules and other recent decisions, the primary role of enforcement by the NCAA has been significantly reduced. The new NCAA constitution is intended to shift power from the 115-year-old organization to its conferences and member institutions.
The proposed constitution will formally limit the NCAA’s authority, reduce its scope and staffing, and restrict its role to more high-level, strategic issues confronting collegiate athletics. This may seem like a move to bolster competitive balance and improve the student-athlete experience but it could very easily turn into a money grab by the Power Conferences who will fill the vacuum by promoting their own self-interest. The Power 5 already kicked the Big XII to the curb when they formed their informal alliance last year.
The proposed NCAA Constitution also locks in the current revenue distribution percentage to Division II (4.37%) and Division III (3.18%), which should help it garner support from the majority of the NCAA’s member schools. The NCAA has 1,100 member schools, 351 that compete in Division I, and some 500,000 athletes overall.
How will DU be impacted by the new constitution? A new constitution will allow each division, D1 in DU’s case, to create unique rules, setting the stage for further restructuring. It is unclear at this point but it could mean reducing the number of DI sports a school must sponsor (currently at least 7 sports for men and 7 sports for women). Or, perhaps, under a new plan, require institutions to keep a minimum number of sports in D1 but allow them to move some of their less profitable teams to D2.
Chairman Shane Lyons tells AP News, “There’s a huge gap in Division I, with schools roughly with $175 million budgets and schools with $4 million budgets,” Lyons said. “A lot of times we’ve tried to legislate from an equality standpoint. Is there possibly a new division? Is there a Division IV? Do some schools break away and make a Division IV, and what is the membership requirement?”
On another front, the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, an organization of former and current college administrators, backs a restructuring of Division I that would include moving major college football out from under the NCAA umbrella. The Knight Commission recently proposed a revenue-sharing model that it believes would curb the athletics arms race at the top of Division I and better support educational goals. But we all know that with less centralized control, the Power 5 are likely to get even more powerful in the future and, perhaps, less focus on ‘equity’ and ‘education’ as it pertains to competitive balance.
While it’s great to see the demise of the old NCAA model, the future will be volatile for schools and conferences as they take the reins and chart their future course.