Faced with potential changes that could impact universities of all sizes in all regions of the country, a group of 32 conferences today announced the creation of a coalition designed to protect and improve the student-athlete experience.
The coalition includes all conferences of all sizes throughout Division I. The coalition will serve as a loosely knit forum for the conferences to join together to communicate the many benefits student-athletes receive and to provide input on ways to continuously improve the student-athlete experience.
"For generations, college athletics have been a crucial part of the educational experience. Thanks to the way college sports are run, student-athletes gain an education, learn skills, and have opportunities in life. But today, those benefits are being challenged," said Craig Thompson, the commissioner of the Mountain West Conference.
"We're proud of what has been done for student-athletes across the collegiate landscape, recognizing that athletics are an important part of the academic experience," Thompson added. "I'm pleased every Division I conference has joined together to protect and improve the college experience."
Under the coalition, named the "Coalition to Protect the Student-Athlete Experience", individual institutions and conferences will continue to make their own decisions about benefits or other items that fall under their individual purviews.
The 32 conferences of the CCA supporting the formation of the coalition are the America East, American, Atlantic 10, Atlantic Coast, Atlantic Sun, Big 12, Big East, Big Sky, Big South, Big Ten, Big West, Colonial Athletic Association, Conference USA, Horizon League, Ivy League, Metro Atlantic Athletic, Mid-American, Mid-Eastern Athletic, Missouri Valley, Mountain West, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Pac-12, Patriot League, Southeastern, Southern, Southland, Southwestern Athletic, Summit League, Sun Belt, West Coast and Western Athletic conferences.
Q. What is the point of the coalition? Why is it needed?
A. Regardless of what conference someone is in or how large or small their institutions are, we are united in the belief that athletics are a vital part of academics and we want to protect and improve the student-athlete experience. We are proud of what the student-athlete experience means to millions of fans, students and alumni and we are concerned about some of the more radical proposals to alter that experience.
Q. What will the coalition do?
A. The purpose of the coalition is to provide the 32 conferences with a loosely knit forum to discuss information – among themselves and the public - about the many ways student-athletes benefit thanks to the way college sports are run. It also will serve as a forum to discuss potential changes and improvements.
Q. Is this in reaction to the lawsuits that have been filed against the NCAA?
A. There is a clear sense that we need to do a better job telling our story. We’re proud of the many ways student-athletes benefit from their collegiate experience and we want to make sure we’re doing all we can to tell that story. We certainly do think the changes being sought in these law suits go too far and are neither in the interest of our academic missions nor in the interest of student-athletes.
Q. Why isn’t the NCAA a part of this?
A. We view them as a partner in what we’re doing. They know all about it and they support it. We think the more people telling our story the better.
Q. Is this just a PR initiative?
A. We certainly do think we need to do a better job telling our story. But in addition to communications, we think the coalition will be a good way for conferences to discuss ideas not only for how to protect the student-athlete experience, but how to constantly improve it.
Q. Can you be more specific? Give an example of what the coalition might do?
A. Student-athletes today receive many benefits: degrees; scholarships; top-notch coaching;
additional financial assistance; travel and hardship benefits; and medical care are just a few examples. Student-athletes deserve support. We provide it and we want people to know it. But we also want to talk about what else we can do. The NCAA’s recent announcement about travel assistance for families at championship games is a good example. What else can and should we do? The coalition gives us a loosely knit forum to talk about these issues.
Q. Why is it necessary? It seems redundant, given the role of the NCAA and the CCA.
A. The coalition simply gives us a way to focus on these issues. But it also sends an important
signal that everyone at all levels of Division I is united in recognizing that some of the changes being sought go too far and we stand together in opposing them.
Q. Who is in charge of this coalition and how will it operate?
A. We’re in the process of creating a committee that will serve as a forum for the 32 conferences to provide input and participate in our efforts. For now, our spokesperson is Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson, who also is the current Chair of the FBS.