Matt York / AP
Thursday July 15, 2021 | 11:55 p.m.
NCAA President Mark Emmert said Thursday the time has come to consider a decentralized and deregulated version of college sports, shifting power to conferences and campuses and re-examining how schools are aligned.
Emmert said the recent Supreme Court ruling against the NCAA along with the lifting of restrictions on athletes monetizing their fame should be a catalyst for “rethinking” what college sport is.
In a 30-minute interview with a small group of reporters, Emmert stressed that he was not offering a mandate or even a recommendation. But he presented a vision for the future of college sports that places fewer limits on athletes and downplays the role of a national governing body like the NCAA, which was founded 115 years ago and oversees more than 450,000 students. who play sports.
“When you have an environment like this, it just forces us to think more about the constraints that should be in place for varsity athletes. And that should be the bare minimum, ”Emmert said.
Emmert said the more than 1,100 NCAA member schools should consider a less cohesive approach to how sports are governed and reconsider the current three-division structure, which includes 355 Division I colleges.
NCAA rules and regulations have long been criticized, and court challenges have increased in recent years.
“We have to be prepared to say, ‘Yeah, you know, for field hockey, field hockey is different from football. Wrestling is different from lacrosse, “and don’t hang on to everything being the same,” said Emmert, who was president of LSU and the University of Washington before taking the NCAA job in 2010.
Sports serve different functions at different schools, Emmert said, and the NCAA needs to govern in a way that better reflects that. He added that the NCAA should not be concerned that a small percentage of athletes are using college sport as a route to professional sport.
“We have to accept this,” he said. “And with NIL out there, we’re providing more opportunities around this whole notion of using college sport as a career launching pad.”
As of July 1, the NCAA waived its long-standing rules prohibiting athletes from making money from their fame for things like online referrals, sponsorship deals, and staff appearances. The move allowed athletes in states that did not have name, image, and likeness laws – designed to usurp previous NCAA restrictions – to capitalize in the same way as those in states with NIL laws. , like Florida and Georgia.
In states where there are no laws to set NIL guidelines, schools have been tasked with creating their own – a radical change for the NCAA. College athletes have jumped into the new market with offers large and small.
The Supreme Court’s ruling against the NCAA last month was also seen as a bombshell, with a 9-0 ruling upholding a lower court ruling in an antitrust case related to compensation caps. Legal experts and college sports watchers immediately wondered if the NCAA would consider other approaches as a result.
The types of reforms to the governance and structure of college sport that Emmert is currently proposing are not new. The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, for its part, promoted a plan to revamp Division I and remove major college football entirely from NCAA jurisdiction.
Emmert has spoken out against this specific idea, but his comments suggest change is certainly on the table.
“I think it’s a really, really good time to sit down and look at a lot of basic assumptions and say, ‘You know, if we were to rebuild varsity sport, and in 2020 instead of 1920, what this sound like? “Emmert said.” What were we going to change? What would we expect or want to be different in the way we manage it. And it’s okay. Now is the right time.
The NCAA’s hands-off approach to NIL reform came after months of work on a proposal creating standardized rules in every division and the organization was also hoping for help from Congress in the form of legislation. federal government on the NIL.
After the Supreme Court ruling opened the door for further legal challenges to NCAA rules, the association shifted to a hyperlocal approach. The current model creates a patchwork of standards across the country, which university sports leaders have insisted would be untenable.
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told ESPN earlier this week that the NCAA’s NIL solution “was meant to keep us from being sued.”
Emmert acknowledged that the High Court’s decision in the Alston case was a moment of clarification and should motivate college sports leaders to act on the reforms.
“You can lean back and do nothing and then wait and see what happens,” Emmert said. “Or you can say, ‘Look, we’re in it.’ It’s a new era. We need to build on it, pivot as much as possible to the areas I just spoke about and embrace this change rather than fight it. “