On its face, a small council of athletic directors which advises the NCAA president and senior staff sounds like an idea with zero downside. It is such a small gesture that it would almost seem to be immune from possible criticism. And it addresses what many see as a long standing NCAA issue.
But despite being one of the smaller decisions made by the NCAA during Mark Emmert’s tenure as president, a tiny footnote compared to the chapters on the Penn State sanctions and Miami investigation scandal, it is a microcosm of why the NCAA has taken such a public beating during Emmert’s tenure. It embodies elements of many of the other controversial decisions made over the last three years.
- This committee already exists. It is called the Leadership Council. Instead of engaging more with an existing group within the NCAA, the association appears to once again believe that there is no problem that cannot be solved with yet another committee, working group, or task force.
- Not only does this group already exist, but the problem of the role of athletic directors in the governance structure is supposedly being addressed. The NCAA is undergoing a review of its governance structure which should include some long-term recommendations. This move appears to undermine the thoughtfulness and thoroughness of those changes.
- This action is public rather than private. Emmert made no apologies for this, but why not quietly engage more with athletic directors, at least until the governance recommendations are in?
- It is a solution to a problem of Emmert’s own creation. Much is made about the failure of the overall shift away from athletic director control of the NCAA into the hands of the presidents. But prior to the Presidential Retreat and institution of the working groups, there were few public complaints about the NCAA governance process, other than it being too slow. And athletic directors had a favored place within it.
For such a low stakes decision, this one is very telling. It speaks to an NCAA scrambling from crisis to crisis rather than than simply taking the time to let their own existing, ongoing processes take care of the problem. At best, this council is BCS-heavy and annoys the smaller schools who feel increasingly marginalized (but cannot really do anything about it). At worst, it hijacks the governance process for a while to who knows what end, before another group (presidents? faculty? conference commissioners?) get their own playtime.