Conference Commissioners are Not NCAA Officials

Bob BowlsbyNCAA governance is confusing, no one disputes that. Part of the blame lies with the NCAA. Running a management company with $800 million in revenue overseeing a multi-billion industry with the same system used to decide if a condo owner can put up a satellite dish is bound to lead to weirdness. But this is a stretch too far:

NCAA officials say they are pushing professional sports leagues to allow athletes to be drafted directly out of high school.

Conference commissioners…

Let me stop you right there.

When I hear the term “NCAA official” outside of the context of an actual referee, I think of an employee of the NCAA national office. I would also concede that most people might consider the members of the more prominent committees like the Executive Committee, Division I Board of Directors, the Leadership Council, the Legislative Council, or Committee on Infractions to be “NCAA officials” and I don’t have a better term for them. “NCAA membership representatives” is too clunky and “NCAA governors” sounds haughty. I use “NCAA leadership” to simultaneous refer to national office executives and the members of the presidential committees (Board of Directors and Executive Committee)

But conference commissioners are by no stretch of the imagination “NCAA officials”. Commissioners have no formal role in NCAA governance. They can and occasionally do occupy seats on important committees like the Legislative Council, Leadership Council and Committee on Infractions. But they cannot be members of the Executive Committee or Board of Directors and play a smaller direct role in NCAA governance than other athletics administrators.

Conference commissioners are in direct control of the College Football Playoff (nee Bowl Championships Series), which is increasingly seen less as a subcontractor of the NCAA to run the FBS football postseason and more as a legitimate competitor. And the more extensive comments on this issue to the Wall Street Journal from Pac–12 commissioner Larry Scott make it clear that commissioners are pushing for new NBA and NFL draft rules as an independent group, not as part of the NCAA governance structure.

It just so happens that the commissioners and the NCAA (or at least NCAA president Mark Emmert) agree on this point. But it does not change the fact that even in the often-imprecise world of naming things in college athletics, this goes too far. Conference commissioners are pushing for this change independently of the NCAA (both national office and membership governance) and their actions (for better or for worse) should not be attributed to the NCAA.



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