NCAA president Charlie Baker on Monday published an open letter to member schools in which he proposed a "path forward" in an "unprecedented era for college sports." Read full letter below:
We are in an unprecedented era for college sports. The environment is rapidly shifting culturally, politically, legally and financially. To address the challenges ahead, the NCAA needs to make real change. At my direction and that of the Board of Governors, the NCAA national office and membership have begun a significant range of work to meet that charge. Immediately after taking over as president, I led an effort to bring in outside experts to analyze every aspect of the national office, while I also set out to hear directly from all 97 primary conferences across the Association. As a result, we produced a strategic plan for the work ahead that prioritizes student-athlete outcomes. At the same time, we are already making real changes across the Association, including improving the benefits and protections college athletes have access to. There is more work ahead, but what we have already accomplished these last few months makes clear the staff, membership and student-athletes everywhere are ready to get to work.
- Gender equity progress. Since the NCAA completed an exhaustive third-party gender equity assessment in 2021, staff have been implementing recommended changes to ensure that women's sports receive equitable support and that the experiences of student-athletes in those sports are every bit as inclusive, fulfilling and rewarding as those of their counterparts in men's sports. The NCAA has made great strides in closing gaps, and recent progress was analyzed by outside experts and released last week. Progress has been made, but more work remains. This week, I designated Felicia Martin, NCAA senior vice president of inclusion, education and community engagement, to head up these efforts for my team. Martin, who has more than 20 years of experience in college sports, has been with the NCAA since February 2017 when she began as vice president of the Eligibility Center. She was named to her current role in 2021. Before the NCAA, Martin oversaw academics, student services and sports administration as the senior associate athletics director at Texas Tech, where she also had experience as a counseling specialist for the tutorial and mentor program.
- Updated NIL guidelines. I fully support student-athletes' rights to profit from their name, image and likeness. Over the past several months, student-athletes and members alike called on the NCAA to change NIL policies to improve outcomes for student-athletes and increase competitive equity. We answered that call last week by advancing enhanced NIL policies at the Division I Board of Directors meeting. These guidelines still have a way to go before they are implemented, but I believe they will ensure that student-athletes have the ability to exercise their earning potential in the NIL marketplace and have protections from exploitation by potential bad actors. They also will help ensure that student-athletes across the country have access to the same fundamental opportunities while competing according to the same fundamental rules. I look forward to seeing more from the Division I Council later this fall.
- Health insurance fund creation. Last week, we made a breakthrough in advancing the "holistic model" developed by the Division I Transformation Committee in 2022 and approved in concept earlier this year. A key provision of the holistic model is continued health insurance for student-athletes who suffer athletically related injuries that require treatment beyond the end of their college playing careers. I'm proud to share that we developed a fund that will help all schools, across all three divisions, access the resources they need to meet their commitments to this aspect of the holistic model.
- Key business review findings. Earlier this year, I launched a third-party business and strategy review, and we recently received the results. We began this review to help identify opportunities to modernize the NCAA's organizational structure, work processes and business model in ways that will enhance the value we generate for our member schools and help us better deliver on our core mission of providing a world-class athletics and academic experience for student-athletes. We will now harness the talent of the national office to make these ambitions into our reality.
While there are limitations on what we alone can accomplish — which is why we continue to simultaneously advocate for Congress to take action to stabilize the future of college sports — we are committed to exhausting every avenue for reform within our control. This has been an exceptionally productive time for the team at the NCAA as we continue to work together to support more than 500,000 student-athletes participating in NCAA sports across the nation.