Thursday, September 18, 2014

NCAA governance, autonomy and Star Wars

College athletics is awaiting the expiration of the 60 day override period that will formalize NCAA “autonomy” (a euphemism for nearly total control) for 65 schools (out of more than 350) under a new governance model.  

The NCAA’s governance structure is being changed to assuage media and legal perceptions of unfair treatment of athletes in two sports – football and basketball – and under threat that approximately 20% of the schools (those in the ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 12 and SEC) might break away from the other 285 schools in Division I and form their own athletic enterprise.  

This course has been charted by the five conferences mentioned earlier and the NCAA to maximize revenue generation through conference realignment, expanded broadcast rights, new television networks and ever growing corporate sponsorship.  But their enhanced economic strength has created extensive perceptions of inequity and a legal mine field.  As I've indicated in previous writing, I believe these institutions should be able to spend their resources as they wish and need dexterity to navigate the legal landscape, but the splintering of college athletics is rapidly approaching and also believe autonomy will be a major contributor to the breakup.       

There is a sense of resignation among those that believe the NCAA’s restructuring is the wrong direction for college sports. Unfortunately, a sustained public relations campaign about the compelling rationale for more discussion has been elusive.  Simultaneously there is impatience from those who have driven the autonomy agenda to expedite the process.  The alignment of agendas and messaging in support of autonomy while ignoring contrarian views has been politically masterful and well orchestrated.  Indeed, it is hard not to be resigned or impatient (depending on your perspective) when the NCAA’s official documents outlining governance changes indicate that plans for the January 2015 NCAA Convention, should include “a celebratory kickoff event” hosted by the Board and Steering committees (see page 43 of the linked document). 

Indeed the entire scenario is one where life imitates art in two short video clips from the movie “Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith.”

In this 90 second video clip from the movie, the Emperor makes his case that “in order to insure security and continuing stability, the republic will be reorganized......for a safe and secure society!”  As the emperor makes his speech, all of those that stand in the way of total domination and changing governance are slain.  


And after the Emperor’s speech, one of the disenfranchised senators perfectly summarizes the power grab in one sentence.


As the party unfolds in Washington DC in January at the NCAA convention, I’m sure the applause will be thunderous.  T-shirts for the celebration are available here.  

For those who aren't yet ready to celebrate the new world order, October 6 is the last day for institutions to cast an override vote, extend the discussion and work towards a more equitable, rationale and fair governance structure than what is currently on the table.   

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