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NCAA Official Tempers Rhetoric About Imminent DI Subdivision

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USA TODAY
October 30, 2013 Wednesday
FINAL EDITION
SPORTS; Pg. 3C
596 words
Hatch doesn't envision superdivision
Dan Wolken, @DanWolken, USA TODAY Sports

As high-ranking college athletics officials gather Tuesday and today to discuss a new governance structure for the NCAA, Division I board of directors chairman Nathan Hatch told USA TODAY Sports in an exclusive interview that he did not envision the process resulting in a new subdivision for the wealthiest football-playing schools.

"From what I've heard in the association, I think people would like to have one Division I, but, in some ways, a structure that will make certain differentiations between small conferences and big conferences," said Hatch, president at Wake Forest University. "I think people like having one division."

Sparked by the recent frustration of schools and conferences that have watched a number of significant reform proposals die within the bureaucratic process, the NCAA expects to have a new, more nimble structure ready for implementation by August.

Several groups with an interest in the outcome, including organizations representing coaches, athletes, athletics directors, compliance directors and faculty, met Tuesday with the board of directors at NCAA headquarters to present ideas for what the new Division I structure should look like.

Representatives of the conference commissioners, who have no formal role in NCAA governance, also made a presentation at the meeting.

Hatch's assertion that the 300-plus Division I schools won't be formally subdivided between those who have big-time football programs and everybody else runs counter to the rhetoric that spread throughout college athletics this summer, as commissioners of the five wealthiest conferences publicly pushed for more autonomy to make their own rules.

But instead of a so-called Division IV, in which those schools would operate as a separate legislative entity, it appears the board of directors favors a system in which a federation of big schools could make rules that allow them to use more of their resources, as opposed to the current rulebook designed to create the illusion of a level playing field. As an example, if wealthier schools decided to deregulate how many meals they could feed athletes, smaller-revenue schools in Division I theoretically would be able to operate with the same freedom if they could afford it.

The question becomes where those lines get drawn, which set of schools has voting power on which issues and how that results in a smoother legislative process to implement things such as the so-called full cost of attendance stipend, which got vetoed by the smaller-revenue Division I schools (mostly those without Football Bowl Subdivision programs) in 2011.

"That's the kind of thing we're going to wrestle with," Hatch said. "I do think the big conferences have to be granted certain degrees of freedom; their issues are so much different than much smaller institutions that somehow if we're going to have the big tent, one division, we're going to have to take into account that they're very different. There's great unity on certain things like student-athlete welfare, academic standards, those sorts of things, and it's one of the reasons we want to stay together."

After this week's meetings and the annual NCAA convention in January, Hatch said he would lead a subcommittee of seven board of directors members that will work with NCAA President Mark Emmert to come up with a template for the new governance structure over the next several months.

Asked if Emmert, who has been the target of significant criticism during his tenure over a host of issues, would still be in office to implement the changes, Hatch said, "I fully expect that."

October 30, 2013

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