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End-Game Behind Super Division Appears Limited

In yesterday’s NCAA teleconference following the Division I Board of Directors meeting, three key points were addressed. Two were completely snowed under by a third: that the NCAA will shut down an online store which sold jerseys and other athlete memorabilia. Not 48 hours after it was revealed that the store linked items to athlete’s names, the NCAA announced the entire thing will be gone. And rightfully so, because as NCAA president Mark Emmert pointed out, it is not the type of business they should be in, even if the NCAA did not make a dime off the store.

But it meant two other items with huge implications got swept aside. Division I will have a “division-wide” dialogue about a new governance structure. And the chairs of the two most powerful committees in the NCAA both said they have no interest in changing or abandoning the amateurism model.

This means that the fantasies about a radically different Division X or breakaway association that pays players and/or allows some version of the Olympic model is probably still far-fetched at best. If so, why the saber-rattling from the big conferences?

It all suggests that governance changes are a combination of a means to an end (like a stipend) or are more an act of frustration. There seems to be no grand design here to radically overhaul the rules, especially core issues in the NCAA like amateurism or academic standards. If an entirely new division or subdivision was created in August 2014, do not expect it to do something even as big as eliminating the APR or rolling back initial eligibility requirements.

If there is any long-term motive or plan for the major conferences, yesterday’s teleconference reveals that at most, it is about flexibility. The big conferences may be looking to make sure they can quickly respond to threats like the O’Bannon case and concussion litigation without being slowed down by the have-nots.

The idea that transformative change is lurking behind this governance review is more or less dead at this point. In fact, the idea that the governance changes are themselves going to be that significant is on the rocks. This is a “division-wide” review. That means those have-nots that might get frozen out are going to get some sort of say in how or whether they get frozen out.

At this point, do not bet the rent on anything more than a reform package that looks like this:

  • Re-weighting of votes in the Legislative Council;
  • Restructuring of the override process;
  • Separating football even more in the legislative process;
  • Combining or winding down some Division I committees;
  • Changing Division I membership standards; and
  • Passing a stipend or cost-of-attendance scholarships.

The (very short for the NCAA) timeline of 12 months and all 340-odd Division I schools being involved means cooler heads are likely to prevail. Compromise will be the word of the day and what looked like a major reorganization will be limited to changes in how Division I’s existing membership works together.

The big news today is that a whole summer of posturing that looked to be coming to a thrilling conclusion is more likely to end with a whimper than a bang. In closing its memorabilia store, the NCAA did what we want a public institution to do in this case: act quickly to correct a failing once exposed by the media. Now if only the same mentality could be applied to larger issues than e-commerce.

USA Olympic Fencer Ordered to remove Hajib.

Bacone College Athletic Scholarships.

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