The Athletic

Athletic department officials within FBS pushing for new governance model

Athletic department officials within the FBS are pushing for a governance model that includes a chief operating officer and an FBS governing board, according to a seven-page proposal from the LEAD1 Association obtained by The Athletic. Here’s what you need to know:

  • The proposal included feedback from athletic directors who make up the LEAD1 Association and attended its annual meeting in Washington, DC, back in September as well as multiple working groups.
  • A small subcommittee of 11 ADs, which represented all 10 FBS conferences and independents, has met in recent weeks to come up with a more granular proposal regarding FBS governance.
  • Such a proposal is being circulated for feedback from other ADs and will be sent out to the Division I Board of Directors as well as the DI Transformation Committee, which has been working on its own governance reform recommendations.

What are the recommendations?

LEAD1 recommends the following in its proposal:

  • The NCAA would establish an FBS Football Governing Board, primarily comprised of football-knowledgeable FBS conference appointments, one representative from the American Football Coach Association (AFCA), and four independent appointments, at least two being former FBS football student-athletes who have graduated in the previous three years.
  • The Board would serve as a parallel entity to the NCAA Division I Council. The Board would decide all matters related to FBS football, except for academic, student-athlete financial aid/benefit rules, and decisions deemed to materially impact the NCAA — which would be subject to NCAA Division I Board of Directors oversight. Areas that the Board would cover include: playing rules, health and safety issues, the recruiting calendar and the roster size.
  • There would also be a new position created for FBS football — a Chief Operating Officer (COO) with staff, to run the day-to-day operation of the sport and report to the Board. This COO should also be on the NCAA President’s Leadership Team/Cabinet. The role would be similar to that of Dan Gavitt, the NCAA’s senior vice president of basketball.
  • FBS leadership would remain under the NCAA umbrella due to liability concerns.

LEAD1 is an advocacy group and does not retain the authority to implement its proposal. But it is hoping its feedback will help shape the future of college sports, a topic that is top of mind for everyone working in it these days. The Transformation Committee, which is wrapping up its tenure in December, is also expected to make recommendations regarding the NCAA governance structure.

Why this matters

The entire industry has been discussing issues tied to the governance of college sports all year. It’s a hot topic with a lot of opinions and potential creative solutions. But each idea also brings challenges with it.

The Athletic explored the myriad angles related to the future of college football in September, with multiple leaders quoted in support of a governance model similar to the one proposed by LEAD1 — one that is still technically under the NCAA umbrella but gives more power directly to FBS leaders to make decisions regarding FBS issues.

“Is there a governing board? Is there a football czar? What are our goals?” Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren told The Athletic back in September. “The more we can get to the point where we have a centralized governance structure where it’s clear who’s in charge, I think the better we’ll be able to serve our various constituents.

“We need to remain nimble and we need to remain aware that we are at an interesting inflection point in college athletics, generally speaking, but especially from a football standpoint. The next 12 to 24 months will impact the College Football Playoff for the next, probably, 15 to 20 years.”

In the LEAD1 proposal, the board would pursue financial support from the College Football Playoff as well as FBS conferences and/or the NFL to help fund the structure. Right now, none of the CFP money goes to the NCAA, which administers rules, eligibility and other services for the sport. And the NFL does not provide any financial support or resources to its unofficial minor league system, despite benefitting massively from college football.

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(Photo: Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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