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Collegiate & Professional Sports Law Blog

NCAA Division I Announces Landmark Changes To Governance Structure

The NCAA Division I Board of Directors has voted 16-2 to adopt landmark revisions to its governance structure.  The Board’s decision will provide limited autonomy for the 65 “Big 5” institutions in the Atlantic Coast, Big 12, Big 10, Pac-12 and the Southeastern athletic conferences.   These conferences are expected to submit new rules by October 1 for consideration at the 2015 NCAA Convention held in January.  While the proposal is not yet determined, the top priority likely will be raising the scholarship amount from the cost of tuition and fees, room, board and required course-related books to the “full cost of attendance,” which accounts for other factors specific to each university and is generally a few thousand dollars higher than the current scholarship.

The Board’s decision is subject to a 60-day comment period.  If 75 universities express disapproval during this period, the board will reconsider its decision at its next scheduled meeting on October 30.  If 125 universities object, implementation will be suspended pending reconsideration.  If the board subsequently reaffirms its decision, all Division I universities will vote, with a five-eighths majority required to overturn. However, an override is not expected.

The change in governance structure also increases the number of Board members from 18 to 24.  In addition to university presidents and chancellors, the Board now will have an athletic director, student athlete and a senior woman athletics administrator.  Any other Division I conference or university (pending its conference’s approval) may opt into the Big 5’s rules.

The change also disbanded the longstanding Leadership and Legislative councils. Now there is one Council with 32 conference athletics directors, two student athletes, four conference commissioners and two faculty athletics representatives. The Council will make the day-to-day policy and legislative decisions for Division I.   The Council governance process will be streamlined and simplified as well: Rules can be adopted in April only, instead of April and January.  Any rules adopted by the Council will be subject to Board review.

The Big 5 also announced how it intends to govern its autonomy.  Each of the 65 schools will receive one vote.  In addition, each of the five conferences will have three student-athlete representatives, with one vote each.  To get items approved, there can either be 60% in favor (48 of 80 votes) and a simple majority support from 3 of 5 conferences – or – there can be 51% in favor (41 of 80) and support from 4 of the 5 conferences.

Many of the rules, including most regarding academic requirements and amateur status, will continue to apply uniformly throughout Division I’s conferences.  All of Division I schools will have access to revenue-sharing and eligibility for championships.

Many questions remain unanswered, however. For example, how will institutions apply the full cost of attendance and will a disparity among schools result in potential violations?  How will the full cost of attendance be reconciled with Title IX?  Will the adoption of full cost of attendance apply solely to full scholarship recipients or will it result in increases for partial scholarships also?   We will report additional updates as they become available.

Judge Rules Against NCAA In Antitrust Decision But Limits Potential Compensation To Athletes

United States District Court Judge Claudia Wilken has ruled that the NCAA is in violation of federal antitrust laws by prohibiting major college football and men’s basketball student-athletes from receiving compensation for the use of their names, images and likenesses in broadcasts and video games.

Following a three week non-jury trial in June, Judge Wilken ruled in favor of a group of plaintiffs led by former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon. O’Bannon sued the NCAA and alleged that the organization had violated antitrust laws by working with schools and conferences to make sure the student-athletes never received a share of the revenues generated from the use of their images in broadcasts and video games. The plaintiffs gave up their right to seek potential monetary damages in a pretrial decision to avoid having the case heard by a jury.

In a 99-page decision, the judge issued an injunction prohibiting the NCAA from enforcing its rules on money given to athletes for the use of their names, images and likenesses. Specifically, Judge Wilken found, “The challenged NCAA rules unreasonably restrain trade in a market for certain educational and athletic opportunities offered by NCAA Division I schools.”

Rejecting the numerous arguments offered by the NCAA during the trial to support its operational model, Judge Wilken considered the NCAA’s rationale but stated, “the justifications offered by the NCAA do not justify this restraint and could be achieved through less restrictive means” while still protecting the competition.

However, the judge’s decision did provide a small victory for the NCAA. While finding the current NCAA policies in violation of federal law, Judge Wilken did acknowledge that the NCAA could set a cap on the money paid to athletes as compensation for the use of their names and likenesses as long as the NCAA permitted at least $5.000 per athlete per year of competition for players at major football and basketball schools. Her injunction allows the money to be set aside in a trust for every year an athlete remains academically eligible to compete. The money would be paid to the athlete upon the expiration of his eligibility or graduation, whichever comes first. Specifically, Judge Wilken stated, “the NCAA’s witnesses stated their concerns about student-athlete compensation would be minimized or negated if compensation was capped at a few thousand dollars per year.”

While authorizing the creation of this compensation trust, Wilken stopped short of allowing athletes to receive money for endorsing commercial products.

“Allowing student-athletes to endorse commercial products would undermine the efforts of both the NCAA and its member schools to protect against the ‘commercial exploitation’ of student-athletes,” Wilken ruled.

NCAA Chief Legal Officer Donald Remy disagreed with the Judge’s decision that the NCAA violated antitrust laws. He stated, “We note that the Court’s decision sets limits on compensation, but we are reviewing the full decision…the NCAA is committed to fully supporting student-athletes.

The ruling will not affect college athletes immediately. It states the new rules on pay will not take effect until the start of the next football and basketball recruiting period and will not have any effect on prospective recruits before July 1, 2016.

 

 

How Did This Happen? When Good Compliance Systems and People are not enough in College Athletics and Corporations

Several years ago, in my last term on the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions, I was listening to a university president try to explain how his athletic program landed in trouble, despite having pretty good compliance systems and people in place. It struck me that I had just read similar explanations while pouring through a number of corporate representative depositions in securities fraud cases; I was working as an expert witness for investors who had lost millions in health care fraud. In both the NCAA and securities cases, some of the CEOs thought they had all the compliance bases covered, with impressive programs on paper and adequate staffing, based on industry norms.

Despite the differences between university athletic compliance and corporate finance, the features and failings in the cases were strikingly similar. At the NCAA hearing I pulled out a legal pad and wrote eight bullet points describing parallels in compliance failings between the NCAA and business corporations.

With only minor stylistic changes, those points remain unchanged from the list I made that day. You can take every observation in the list and turn it into a lesson on how to avoid the negative outcomes in the NCAA and securities cases.

  • Once you get past a certain institutional size, most organizations have fairly impressive compliance programs – on paper. The record of compliance education and monitoring is usually strong. Most actors in NCAA cases and in corporate depositions do not complain of a lack of effort or process in rules education.
  • Process is a critical threshold and first step, but the integrity of people matters more. Many of the failings are in people, not process.
  • Most failures and frauds are the result of people being pressured to meet unrealistic expectations or goals. Whether it is reaching too far to land a recruit, stretching to meet a sales quota, or reach a Wall Street earnings projection, it is the long reach that will get you.
  • A smart, determined person usually can subvert or circumvent an impressive compliance system. In both college sports and business worlds, institutions are frequently harmed by intelligent bad actors, who find a way around a monitoring system.
  • Some determined wrongdoers are not deterred by the threat of penalties or the possible loss of their livelihood. It is hard for prosecutors and sanctioning bodies to admit, but sociopaths cannot be your target audience in formulating a penalty structure and imposing sanctions. If the institution has done a credible job in the compliance area, do not mortally wound the institution because you cannot lock up or shame a sociopath.
  • The most effective compliance program will fail if a person in a leadership position blinks. If a corporate CEO or university president or athletic director sends a “wink and nod” signal across the organization that non-adherence will be tolerated, people in the compliance office do not stand a chance.
  • Often the most significant damage comes not from the initial misstep, but from the cover-up. What otherwise would result in relatively minor damage balloons into a major fraud and career-ending move.  Failing to be straight up when an investigation is underway can invite the worst consequences.
  • Mistakes happen.  Everyone makes them.  They are not necessarily a reflection or your character or reputation unless they become a habit. People of good will, whose opinions matter will understand that. What they will not understand and countenance is a cover -up.

CONCLUSION

In both industry and on campus, millions of dollars are being spent on compliance.  No matter how different these worlds appear, I learned, they have a great deal in common when it comes to compliance failures that undermine that investment.

NCAA President Responds to Criticism of Enforcement Process

Responding to recent criticism of the effectiveness of the NCAA enforcement process, the Association’s President, Mark Emmert has defended the enforcement staff and its work.

Emmert’s response came in a memorandum to the NCAA Division I Board of Directors and all 32 Division I Commissioners.   The memo appears to have been prompted by comments made by Big XII Commissioner Bob Bowlsby, who told news media that “enforcement is broken” and that “the infractions committee hasn’t had a hearing in almost a year, and I think it’s not an understatement to say cheating pays presently.”  In his written rejoinder, Emmert stated flatly that such assertions were inaccurate, citing statistics supporting the current enforcement process:

  • The NCAA enforcement staff has approximately 100 active investigations;
  • 14 institutions have been notified of a combined 64 allegations of major violations;
  • Notices of an additional 50 allegations of significant violations will be delivered to the involved institutions by the end of 2014, most of which involve Division I schools; and
  • The Division I Committee on Infractions is expected to conduct at least one hearing a month for much of the 2014-2015 academic year;

Meanwhile, the NCAA Steering Committee on Governance will deliver to the Division I Board of Directors its final recommended Division I governance structure model for adoption at its August 7th meeting.    The proposed model does not address enforcement.  However, the enforcement process recently was significantly changed as a result of an initiative led by University Presidents beginning in 2011.  The current model became effective in August 2013 and is intended to place more emphasis on the most serious rules violations and to shorten case processing time.

Despite the data presented by Dr. Emmert and the brief time the new model has been in place, the Division I commissioners plan to initiate a comprehensive study of the enforcement process following the adoption of the new governance structure.  Given the increased influence of the five highest-revenue conferences (Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Ten, Big XII, the Pac-12 and the Southeastern Conference) as contemplated in the new governance model, if the commissioners conclude the recent enforcement reform is inadequate, a new model likely will be proposed.  In any event, based on the criticisms by Mr. Bowlsby and other influential leaders in college athletics,  it is clear that NCAA rules enforcement will prioritize investigating the most egregious violations and will place the heaviest penalties directly on individuals who willfully violate the rules.   

NCAA member institutions, particularly those in Division I, should ensure their compliance operations are adequately supported and are targeting the most significant issues in intercollegiate athletics today, as those are likely to be the primary focus of NCAA enforcement.  Institutions must be prepared to investigate alleged rules violations thoroughly and ensure their policies and monitoring systems demonstrate institutional control to the Committee on Infractions, if called upon to do so.

Expanding its Collegiate and Professional Sports Practice, Jackson Lewis is well-positioned to assist with matters involving NCAA enforcement, including internal investigations, the new summary disposition process and hearings before the Committee on Major Infractions. The firm works with institutions to ensure their athletics compliance programs are structured and functioning properly in order to reduce the chances of NCAA enforcement proceedings and to minimize other legal risk.

Colleges and Universities Must Address Sexual Violence Against Students

The University of Connecticut (UConn) has agreed to pay nearly $1.3 million to settle a federal lawsuit filed by five current and former female undergraduates who claimed the university  mishandled their complaints of sexual assault.

UConn was accused of mishandling rape cases and refusing to condemn or intervene following  reported harassment of female students, in violation of the federal gender equity law, Title IX of the Civil Rights Act. The school, which has repeatedly defended its policies for responding to sexual assault complaints, did not admit any wrongdoing.

The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) of the United States Department of Education is responsible for enforcing Title IX, which states that “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”  In its April 2011 “Dear Colleague” Letter to university administrators addressing student-on-student sexual harassment and sexual violence, OCR detailed a school’s responsibility to respond promptly and effectively to sexual violence against students in accordance with the requirements of Title IX.  Title IX requires that all colleges and universities that receive federal funds investigate and resolve reports of sexual misconduct.

OCR began its Title IX investigation of UConn in December, after receiving complaints from four of the plaintiffs and three other women. That investigation, which could lead to  the loss of federal funds for the school, continues even though these four women withdrew their complaint to the Education Department.  UConn is one of at least 65 higher education institutions currently under review by OCR due to its handling of sexual assault cases.

In a joint statement issued by UConn and the plaintiffs regarding the settlement, the parties outlined the steps that UConn has taken (both before the litigation was filed and since), to strengthen and enhance its policies and procedures for addressing sexual violence.  These steps include:

-       Adopting a comprehensive Sexual Assault Response Policy;

-       Adopting an enhanced Policy Against Discrimination, Harassment and Inappropriate Romantic Relationships;

-       Enhancing its training program for management-level employees on issues of sexual harassment and sexual violence;

-       Establishing the position of Assistant Dean of Students for Victim Support Services to coordinate the delivery of services to victims of crime, including   sexual violence;

-       Centralizing UConn’s response to sexual violence that violates UConn’s Code of Conduct and University Policy;

-       Establishing a Special Victims Unit i9n the  UConn Police Department, with a team of officers trained in responding to sexual violence, available 24/7s;

-       Enhancing its educational program for all first year students, to include an increased emphasis on primary prevention, risk reduction and bystander intervention training;

-       During the 2014-2015 Academic Year, UConn will form a working group to further develop and refine sexual violence and bystander intervention training.

In a prepared statement,UConn President Susan Herbst acknowledged the responsibility of all colleges and universities to respond promptly and effectively to sexual violence against students: “This lawsuit may have been settled, but the issue of sexual assault on college campuses has not been. UConn, like all colleges and universities, must do all it can to prevent sexual violence on our campuses, hold perpetrators accountable, and provide victims with the resources and compassion they desperately need during a time of intense personal trauma.”

Ohio State Fires Band Director For Alleged Environment Of Ongoing Sexual Harassment

Ohio State University (“University”) fired the director of its marching band following a two month investigation into an alleged culture of sexual harassment and alcohol abuse in which student band members were told to participate in numerous hazing activities, including mimicking sexual acts and marching on the football field in their underwear in a ritual called “Midnight Ramp.”

In a statement released by the University, the school acknowledged that after a thorough investigation by the Office of University of Compliance and Integrity, serious cultural issues and an environment conducive to sexual harassment within the Marching Band was revealed. The 23-page investigation report, prompted by a formal complaint under the University’s Sexual Harassment Policy and Title IX from the parent of a band member, concluded that a pervasive culture of sexual harassment existed within the marching band and that the band’s director should have done more to stop the offensive behavior. Specifically, the investigation found traditions within the band of assigning new members sexually explicit nicknames and requiring them to march down the aisle of a bus while other band members tried to pull their clothes off were allowed to continue unabated and that the band director “failed to eliminate the sexual harassment, prevent its reoccurrence and address its effects.”

The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) of  the United States Department of Education is responsible for enforcing Title IX, which states that “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” In a series of communications, the OCR has highlighted that sexual harassment of students is a form of sexual discrimination prohibited by Title IX and that acts of verbal, nonverbal, or physical aggression, intimidation, or hostility based on sex or sex-stereotyping are forbidden. (OCR April 4, 2011, Dear Colleague Letter).

In discussing the investigation’s findings, University President Michael Drake stated,

“Nothing is more important than the safety of our students. We expect every member of our community to live up to a common standard of decency and mutual respect and to adhere to university policies.” President Drake added that there would be a zero tolerance policy applicable to  the entire campus community for any behavior that creates a hostile culture at Ohio State.

The University has also announced the appointment of Betty Montgomery, former Ohio Attorney General, to lead an independent task force to review this matter in its entirety and report back to President Drake and the Board of Trustees.

The disciplinary action taken by the University comes at a time when the enforcement of sexual harassment and assault allegations is at an increased level of scrutiny by the federal government. The United States Department of Education has announced that investigators were examining whether 55 colleges and universities, including Ohio State University, improperly handles sexual violence and harassment complaints. The University’s clear and immediate response to its investigation’s findings may be a model that other colleges and universities seek to follow.

NCAA’s New Concussion Guidelines Concentrate on Athlete Contact Practices, Health Monitoring

In an effort to reduce head injuries in college football, the NCAA has released new concussion safety guidelines calling for limits on the number of contact practices and new measures for monitoring player health. The NCAA’s guidelines come after the adoption of PAC-12 and Ivy League legislation in 2013 establishing restrictions on the number of contact practices throughout the year.

The NCAA’s recommendations follow a six-month process that began in January 2014, when the College Athletic Trainers’ Society and the NCAA Sport Science Institute hosted a summit about college football safety in Atlanta. Since then, NCAA officials have worked with the College Athletic Trainers’ Society, several medical organizations, team physicians, the American Football Coaches Association and representatives from each of its conferences to draft these guidelines for improving player safety.

The guidelines include suggestions to limit the number of “live contact practices” during the spring, preseason, regular season and playoffs. A “live contact practice” is “any practice that involves live tackling to the ground and/or full-speed blocking.” The recommendations for each phase of the season are as follows:

Spring Practices

  • 8 of the 15 allowed practices may be live contact practices

Preseason

  • Maximum of 4 live contact practices per week, with a maximum of 12 live contact practices before the season

In Season, Postseason & Bowl Season

  • Maximum of 2 live contact practices per week

Additionally, the guidelines recommend best practices for diagnosing and managing concussions. These best practices have been endorsed by medical organizations such as the American Academy of Neurology, the American College of Sports Medicine and the NCAA Concussion Task Force. The guidelines emphasize the presence of independent doctors to evaluate injuries after an athlete has been diagnosed with a concussion, and that schools designate a licensed physician as medical director to oversee the medical care provided to athletes. Furthermore, the NCAA encourages schools to make their concussion management plans publicly available.

In a statement to ESPN.com, Chris Nowinski, Executive Director of The Sports Legacy Institute, said , even though the NCAA protocol  is non-binding, it is  a step in the right direction. “I think for what it was intended to do, it addresses a lot of the gaps that existed that left college athletes at risk,” said Nowinski. “I think it was an impressive effort by a lot of people to put it together quickly with so many organizations involved. Now it needs to be monitored if it’s actually implemented and adopted by individual schools.”

The NCAA is defending a federal class action lawsuit brought on behalf of current and former NCAA football players who sustained a concussion(s) or suffered concussion-like symptoms while playing football at an NCAA school that alleges it has failed to take sufficient steps to prevent student athletes from concussion related injuries. For more information about this suit, see this post: http://www.collegeandprosportslaw.com/collegiate-sports/ncaa-hit-with-class-action-concussion-lawsuit/.

 

Indiana University May Start Trend with ‘Student-Athlete Bill of Rights’

Indiana University (IU) has created the first prominent “Student-Athlete Bill of Rights,” which formally identifies rights guaranteed by IU to its student-athletes during their time at the university and beyond. Indiana University’s Bill of Rights addresses concerns held by current student-athletes and encourages prospective student-athletes to attend IU by expanding its commitment in numerous phases of student-athlete well-being and development.

The Bill of Rights, comprised of ten guaranteed rights, features these key provisions: (1) Four Year Scholarship Commitment-the guarantee of four-year scholarships to all student-athletes in “head count” sports; (2) Lifetime Degree Guarantee-the creation of a program under which IU will pay the tuition of student-athletes who leave the University before graduating, but return later to complete their degree; (3) Collective Voice-Student-athletes will be given a guaranteed voice through the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, including input on searches for new head coaches; (4) Comprehensive Health Safety and Wellness-Comprehensive physical exam, including screening echocardiogram and baseline concussion testing before beginning competition and all medically related services for any injuries or illnesses suffered during competition are provided free of charge to the student-athlete. (5)Cutting Edge Technology-the promise of a tablet, such as an iPad, to all student-athletes as well as internal internship opportunities.

As Fred Glass, IU Vice President and Director of Intercollegiate Athletics stated,

“We are proud to be the first higher education institution ever to publish a Student-Athlete Bill of Rights. We have committed to this extensive set of benefits and set it out transparently in writing, so we can be held accountable for them…”

This Bill of Rights likely is responding, at least in part, to the unionization efforts of Northwestern University football players earlier this year. It explicitly addresses two issues raised by the Northwestern football players: student-athletes’ role in athletic governance and medical treatment for student-athletes. IU, by stating its commitment to providing a “voice” to student-athletes and protecting their health and safety, may be hoping to make student-athletes focus on the benefits already being provided to them by IU instead of  thinking about the possibility of using a union to express their concerns and issues.

The school claims it is the first institution to create a bill of rights for student-athletes, but it is unlikely to be the last. Other institutions may create their own bills of rights to address student-athlete concerns, dissuade student-athletes from engaging in labor organizing campaigns, and encourage prospective student-athletes to attend the institution. However, despite the benefits of a student-athlete bill of rights, institutions must be careful in drafting such a document.

Institutions should keep in mind compliance with NCAA regulations and possible contract claims that may be created. It is critical that all provisions within the bill of rights comply with NCAA regulations. IU’s promise of a tablet, such as an iPad, to all student-athletes likely is permissible under NCAA Bylaw 16.3.1, which allows institutions to finance academic support for students. Institutions interested in providing similar accessories to student-athletes must be certain that doing so would be likewise permissible under NCAA regulations and would not constitute an impermissible benefit. For example, while institutions likely can provide student-athletes with iPads, the issuance of iPhones probably would be impermissible and a violation of NCAA regulations.

Courts may deem a student-athlete bill of rights an enforceable contract between the institution and its student-athletes. Therefore, institutions must be certain they can follow through with any promises made in their bill of rights. Institutions must carefully consider both the financial and logistical ramifications of any provision.

Colleges and universities interested in following IU’s lead must be pragmatic in doing so and consider seeking outside guidance.

FEDERAL JUDGE APPROVES PRELIMINARY SETTLEMENT OF CLASS ACTION FILED BY NFL RETIREES

Judge Anita Brody of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania has approved a preliminary settlement of a class action filed by former National Football League players claiming the League failed to take reasonable actions to protect players from the risks created by head injuries and attempted to conceal those risks from players.  The N.F.L. does not admit to wrongdoing in the settlement.

Judge Brody had rejected an earlier $765 million proposed settlement because she was concerned that the cap on damages might be insufficient to cover all of the retirees’ claims.

The accord approved by Judge Brody on July 7 eliminates the cap on damages.  Unlike the rejected version, this settlement permits the N.F.L. to challenge an unlimited number of claims to prevent fraud.  The payment to each retiree diagnosed with an eligible condition will depend on his age and the length of his career.

The settlement now will be explained to the approximately 20,000 former players covered by the class action.  A retiree who opts out of the settlement will not be bound by, or entitled to, the agreed upon terms.  Any player who does not opt out will be deemed to have accepted it.  A retiree also may file objections to the new settlement.  Such objections were filed on July 2 by seven former players, just prior to Judge Brody’s approval of the settlement.

Judge Brody scheduled a hearing for November 19, after the former players have had an opportunity to respond, to determine whether the retirees have been fairly represented.  If the retirees who filed objections disagree with Judge Brody’s decision, they can file an appeal.

 

 

NCAA Board Endorses More Autonomy For Five Largest Conferences

In an effort to restructure the Division I legislative system, the NCAA Board of Directors has endorsed a proposal that would give more power to schools in the five largest conferences in the NCAA.

The endorsement was presented as Northwestern University’s 76 voting eligible scholarship members of the football team prepared to participate in a historic election to determine whether to form the first union in the history of college athletics. In response to the unionizing effort, NCAA President Mark Emmert has suggested that changes within the NCAA will address some of the issues raised by those backing and advocating that the players vote for creating a football players union at Northwestern University.

The 57-page NCAA draft proposal calls for a substantial empowering of the 65 school members of the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC. It includes more autonomy for these conferences to implement their own rules and to have increased voting power on legislation that would affect every NCAA member school.

Details of the plan propose allowing the Big Five conferences to independently address issues in areas known as “permissive legislation.” This category includes several increasingly hot button issues for NCAA athletes, such as:

  • continuing education and medical care;
  • expanded insurance coverage, including policies that protect future earnings;
  • increased academic support, particularly for at-risk student-athletes;
  • compensation for expenses associated with practices and competition; and
  • other support, such as free travel for family members and free tickets to athletics events.

According to the plan, the Big Five conferences would have the ability to enact rules in the categories defined as “permissive legislation” with a two-thirds majority vote; the other Division I conferences or schools could determine whether to adopt the rules, as well.

Other categories in the proposal, known as “actionable legislation,” were tabled for discussion and include more complicated issues, such as:

  • lessening time demands on athletes;
  • allowing athletes to pursue careers other than their sport; and
  • imposing new limitations in the areas of recruiting and staff size.

This move signals the beginning of a shift in power to the Big Five conferences. However, the Chair of the NCAA Board and NCAA Steering Committee, Nathan Hatch, emphasized that more discussion on the proposal will take place in the coming months.

“The model we sent to the membership today is not a final product,” said Hatch, who is also the current President of Wake Forest University. “Some aspects of the model remain under discussion, and we hope the membership will provide us further input.”

Hatch added that the steering committee plans to meet again in July to solidify a final proposal. A formal vote on the recommendations is tentatively scheduled for the board’s August meeting. If it passes, the transition could begin this fall.