NCAA Division I officials overwhelmingly believe the Division I governance structure and financial model require major changes and that the pandemic provides an opportunity to consider reforms, according to a Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics survey.
The survey, conducted between June and July, was meant to provide a “snapshot” of the current views Division I officials hold regarding the problems the division faces structurally and financially, and how the model might best be altered, Knight Commission officials said during a webinar on Oct. 13.
The Knight Commission sent the survey to more than 1,400 university presidents, athletic directors, conference commissioners, and others — though only 362 officials responded. Respondents included 106 athletic directors, 21 commissioners and 69 university presidents, and represented FBS, FCS and non-football schools. Other representatives included 10 student-athletes, 66 senior woman administrators and 90 faculty athletics representatives.
Among the survey’s key findings included Division I officials’ thoughts regarding the way millions of dollars in revenue from the Division I men’s basketball tournament and College Football Playoff flow through Division I sports each year.
Only 22% of respondents expressed satisfaction with the current NCAA March Madness model, which distributes a portion of revenues from the NCAA men’s basketball tournament to all Division I member institutions each year. The tournament generated more than $800 million in 2018-19. However, because the 2019-20 tournament was canceled due to COVID-19, the NCAA only sent a total of $225 million to Division I schools.
Similarly, only 25% of respondents expressed satisfaction with the College Football Playoff model, in which FBS schools receive a portion of revenues from the lucrative postseason — run separately from the NCAA despite the fact that the NCAA sends money to FBS schools each year. Unsurprisingly, those in the Power 5 constituted the only group of officials who mostly expressed satisfaction with the CFP model.
As continuous pandemic-induced financial catastrophe and new regulations allowing college athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness loom, Division I officials are searching for solutions. The Knight Commission’s survey proposed two sweeping changes to college sports’ model: creating a separate conference for Power 5 institution sports besides basketball, and creating a separate governing body outside the NCAA for solely FBS football.
About one-third of total respondents would “likely” support creating a new division for Power 5 conferences, while 61% of Power 5 officials supported the idea. On the other hand, 44% of total respondents said they might support separating FBS football from the NCAA entirely, while only 23% of Power 5 officials were in favor of the idea.
On Aug. 17, the NCAA said it expects to have a decision in mid-September on whether the 2020-21 Division I basketball season can start on time — it’s currently slated to begin Nov. 10.
Officials also overwhelmingly supported the NCAA receiving an antitrust exemption to limit budgets and spending — something the governing body is already seeking in Congress to control athlete NIL regulations — and 62% believe sports budgets should be capped.
However, the majority of Division I officials also believe that football and men’s basketball athletes should be considered amateurs, meaning they would not be able receive wages from athletic departments. Survey data also showed that Division I officials believe it’s essential that all Division I schools remain eligible for the same men’s basketball tournament.
The survey also found that officials across the board shared disdain for the NCAA’s current organizational and governing structure. Only 31% of total respondents said they were happy with the NCAA’s current governing model, with 48% of Power 5 officials expressing displeasure. Less than a quarter believed the NCAA Enforcement policies are successful, and 61% agree commissioners have more influence over NCAA governance than presidents.