Four Key Takeaways from the NCAA Convention
Last month, the NCAA membership came together for the 2023 NCAA Convention in San Antonio, Texas to celebrate honorees, vote on legislation within their respective divisions, and discuss important issues facing college athletics. As an attendee, here are four of my biggest takeaways:
1. Student-athlete mental health was emphasized. The NCAA is renewing its focus on supporting student-athletes and coaches in their mental health journey. This focus is part of a broader push to elevate issues surrounding health, safety, and well-being, with one illustration being the creation of the Mental Health Advisory Group, which will recommend updates to best practices and programming. Further, with the endorsement of the Division I Transformation Committee, member institutions will be required to offer a dedicated pathway for student-athletes to access the full-time clinical services of a licensed mental health professional. Member institutions will also be required to complete a regular review of physical and mental health, safety and performance support services. Following the convention itself, the NCAA released the results of an internal survey on how coaches support their own mental health and that of their student-athletes.
2. Title IX gender equity concerns remain. Last June marked Title IX’s 50th anniversary and although significant strides have been made since its passage, equity in athletics is still at the forefront of athletic administrators’ minds. Two educational sessions focused on the effort, including providing practical perspectives from the Office for Civil Rights and strategies and tools for campuses. The big takeaway here is no surprise: institutions must continue to perform regular Title IX compliance reviews in the areas of participation (three-part test), scholarship awards, and other athletic benefits and opportunities.
3. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (“DEI”) is a focal point. By August 1, 2023 Division I members are required to attest to completing a self-directed DEI review (See NCAA Division I Bylaw 220.127.116.11). At the Convention, the NCAA provided optional resources, guides, and a sample framework at the request of the membership. This effort aligns with the NCAA’s commitment to fostering a diverse, equitable and inclusive culture in college athletics. It should not come as a surprise that this review does not come with detailed guidance, but the fact that it remains a priority for the NCAA highlights its importance in athletic departments.
4. NIL enforcement efforts are ongoing. Despite the numerous hurdles the NCAA has faced with enforcing its bylaws in the post-Alston era, the national office, at the direction of the membership, is prepared to start making significant steps to enforce the rules. While it remains to be seen what “enforcement” will look like, we know that the NCAA is concerned with NIL and tampering/impermissible contacts violations (even if it is unclear what, specifically, they are concerned about). This concern, however, has led the NCAA to shift the standard of proof in cases involving potential NIL violations, and there is now a presumption that a violation occurred “if circumstantial information suggests that one or more parties engaged in impermissible conduct” (See NCAA Division I Bylaw 19.7.3). We anticipate much more on this in the coming weeks and months.
In addition to the above themes, all three divisions approved numerous legislative proposals at their business sessions. Notably, the Division I Board of Directors endorsed the Division I Transformation Committee’s final report and recommendations, so we can look for those concepts coming out of the woodwork before this August. In the meantime, it is important to get up to speed with your division’s recently enacted bylaws, as well as taking a cursory review of your mental health, Title IX, DEI, and overall compliance efforts in your athletics department.