The NCAA Division I Board of Directors Thursday approved recommendations from the D-1 Transformation Committee, acknowledging in a statement the work that the committee has done to modernize college athletics.
The Transformation Committee, which was appointed by the board to lead the division's modernization efforts following the adoption of a new NCAA constitution during the 2022 NCAA Convention, has now concluded its work.
"Over the course of the last decade, the legal, political and cultural environment surrounding college sports has evolved faster than the rules, processes and structures we use to govern it," said Greg Sankey, commissioner of the Southeastern Conference, and Julie Cromer, director of athletics at Ohio University, who together co-chaired the Division I Transformation Committee. "The Transformation Committee spent the last year looking at Division I from all angles and carefully crafting these meaningful recommendations we feel will modernize Division I. We're confident these important changes will meet the needs of student-athletes because they were rooted in the perspective of student-athletes. In fact, we're confident that student-athletes' voices have never featured more prominently in shaping how college sports is run."
"The process of transforming the NCAA cannot be limited to a committee or a 12-month timeline. Transformation must be a commitment accepted and embraced by all in Division I, particularly for those in key leadership positions. We must overcome reluctance to change the status quo through a continuing commitment to both the discomfort and opportunity created by an ongoing transformation effort," said Sankey and Cromer.
The board — which represents a broad range of members within Division I — met during the 2023 NCAA Convention in San Antonio.
"On behalf of the board, I thank the Transformation Committee for their hard work over the past year to bring forward these robust proposals," said Jere Morehead, president at the University of Georgia and chair of the Division I Board of Directors. "As we move forward with implementing these recommendations, we look toward a transformed future of Division I that meets the needs of college athletes and positions our Association to succeed in the 21st century."
Recommendations approved by the board include:
Holistic student-athlete benefits model
The board endorsed the Transformation Committee's proposed "holistic model" for the Division I student-athlete experience.
Under that model, student-athletes would be guaranteed increased access to medical coverage for athletically related injuries for a minimum of two years after graduation or completion of their athletics experience; mental health support in line with Inter-Association Mental Health Best Practices; expanded programming focused in areas such as mental health, career preparation, strength and conditioning, and diversity, equity and inclusion; and increased academic counseling and tutoring services.
The board directed that legislation be drafted consistent with the commitments in this model, with support from the Board of Governors Subcommittee on Congressional Engagement and Action. Additional commitments beyond those outlined by the Transformation Committee may be adopted in the future, based on the work of the subcommittee.
Health and Safety
The board approved in concept a number of recommendations for health and safety requirements for Division I members that would include:
- Formalizing divisional expectations and/or requirements for health and safety, including developing training and education, designating specific responsibilities (see above), and mandating appropriate reporting structures.
- Empowering the campus athletics health care administrator(s) at Division I schools.
- Requiring all Division I schools to offer a dedicated pathway for student-athletes to access the full-time clinical services of a licensed mental health professional, ensuring timely access to qualified services when needed.
- Requiring medical personnel with training in the diagnosis, treatment and initial management of acute concussion and other injuries to be present at all practices and competitions in certain contact/collision sports.
- Requiring all Division I schools to complete a regular review of physical and mental health, safety and performance support services, which may be overseen or facilitated by a conference office.
The board directed the Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports and the Division I Strategic Vision and Planning Committee to develop legislative recommendations for implementation no later than August.
The board endorsed additional concepts relating to membership requirements, which are intended to preserve the broad and diverse range of Division I membership while modernizing requirements for continued participation in the division.
Respective committees are now directed to develop legislative recommendations for implementation, including:
- The Football Oversight Committee will be asked to review membership requirements for the Football Bowl Subdivision, including possibly doing away with current minimum attendance requirements.
- The SVPC will be asked to review requirements for diversity, equity and inclusion within athletics departments and consider education and programming requirements for Division I members in the following areas for both coaches and student-athletes:
- Mental health.
- Strength and conditioning.
- Name, image and likeness.
- Financial literacy.
- Transfer requirements.
- Career preparation.
- Diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.
- Campus sexual violence prevention.
The board also approved in concept recommendations relating to NCAA championships. The Division I Board of Directors Finance Committee will be asked to review those recommendations, which include consideration of:
- Expanding access to NCAA championships to include 25% of active Division I members in good standing in team sports sponsored by more than 200 schools.
- Increasing championship budgets and elevating the travel experience for student-athletes.
- Focusing on revenue generation opportunities through championships and considering how revenues are distributed to Division I members in line with championships performance.
The board directed sport committees to consider whether bracket expansion is appropriate in their respective sports — in concert with broadcast partners and stakeholders within those sports — and whether changes should be made to bracket composition for championships.
NCAA governance and leadership
Finally, the board endorsed recommendations pertaining to the decision-making structure within Division I to better equip the division to be more responsive to challenges in college sports.
These recommendations include:
- Examining the composition of the Division I Board of Directors.
- Establishing a sport oversight model for sport-specific rules and policies, with a focus on recruiting rules, practice and playing seasons, eligibility rules and amateurism topics that include rules for professional drafts and agents.
The board voted to eliminate the Division I Presidential Forum in favor of pursuing more effective presidential engagement across the division and will undertake the restructuring of Division I decision-making in the coming months.
Postseason tournament in women's basketball
The board Finance Committee also approved the creation of a second, 32-team postseason tournament in Division I women's basketball. The tournament, similar to the NCAA-owned and operated men's National Invitation Tournament, was a recommendation from an independent gender equity review and is intended to provide an equal number of NCAA-funded postseason opportunities in men's and women's basketball.
The Division I Council voted in October to advance the proposal to create the tournament. At a meeting last week, the Division I Board of Directors Finance Committee supported the allocation of funding.
The tournament, to be named at a future date, will be implemented at earliest at the conclusion of the 2023-24 women's basketball season.
Supplemental distribution to DI members
The board was notified during its meeting that the NCAA Board of Governors approved on Wednesday a supplemental revenue distribution to NCAA members. In Division I, the total distribution will be $31.5 million, which will be disbursed to members in February.