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Going a step beyond elite college football, officials are pitching a model for a new sports landscape

Going a step beyond elite college football, officials are pitching a model for a new sports landscape
Going a step beyond elite college football, officials are pitching a model for a new sports landscape

 


Faced with unrest on the way in college athletics, a handful of administrators and athletes from smaller schools worked on it a new model of management.

The hope of the members of the Football Championship Subdivision and Division I-AAA (non-football programs) is to empower their athletes and essentially treat them more as students than employees.

It was a way to be proactive — and potentially avoid future lawsuits — amid seismic changes in college sports that had already begun before the recent $2.77 billion settlement of antitrust claims brought by the NCAA and the five largest conferences of the country had reached an agreement. That proposal, which needs court approval, also paves the way for schools to pay millions directly to athletes.

The full impact of the settlement is not yet known, but there are concerns that the pursuit of championships and big revenue is beyond the scope and interest of many schools.

Janet Cone, the president of I-AAA athletic directors and the AD at UNC Asheville, joined colleagues earlier this month to present their proposed model at the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics annual convention and to others during an online panel organized by the Knights Committee for Intercollegiate Athletics.

Our goal was to create a sustainable model that was philosophically and legally defensible and that would keep our subdivisions competitive in Division I, Cone told the group.

There are 128 FCS programs that offer football, from Abilene Christian to Youngstown State. There are still about 90 non-football I-AAA schools that include basketball-focused athletic programs, such as Gonzaga, Creighton and St. Johns.

Organizers say their plan would keep their schools at the DI level while giving athletes more control over governance without resorting to legal action and perhaps giving them a chance to earn credits toward an athletic degree.

“I think the response has been very positive,” said Eastern Illinois FCS athletics director Tom Michael. I think people believe we are on the right track. We understand that we were not at the finish line. No one has suggested that this is the final version of this model.

I think there is an understanding that we need to be proactive in this area and that we can't sit around and wait for someone else to point us in the direction or create a path for us.

Last November, the group engaged the Pictor Group as an advisor. The plan's mission is to treat athletes more like other students and outlines a different role for coaches: Possible no-nos could include removing a player from a team as punishment or pressuring him to transfer to certain majors. to go. Other proposals concern unreasonable time commitments, off-field rules and testing for recreational drugs.

Obviously, there has to be some kind of control to compete at a high level, but you shouldn't control everything they do, Cone said of coaches. Those pieces are really critical to our model where the student-athletes are going to be very involved.

Former Abilene Christian football player Anthony Egbo Jr. and Radford volleyball player Meredith Page are among the athletes involved. They surveyed colleagues about what coaches expected of them and received about 100 responses that helped formulate the model.

Egbo told the Knight Commission audience that the increased professionalization of college sports has created a greater desire among athletes to have more say in the development of policies that impact our experience.

The question we asked ourselves is: What if there was a better way for student-athletes to influence their experiences, without having to go through courts and third-party systems? said Ebo.

The guidelines are a way to avoid any semblance of an employer-employee relationship. The National Labor Relations Board found earlier this year that Dartmouth exercised sufficient control over the men's basketball players that they met the legal definition of employees. The school has appealed against this case.

Michael noted that the proposals are not potentially earth-shattering changes, as evidenced by a recent conversation with a league commissioner and a fellow athletic director.

We were joking, 'What we're talking about here is not a new approach,'” he said. It's really what we all started for and trying to bring it back to the roots of this model that's all about education. We laughed a little and said, Wow, that's a new idea.

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