Critical NCAA Topics Deserve Research Sabbaticals From Working Group Members

The NCAA’s Federal and State Legislation Working Group was assembled at the direction of the Board of Governors and President Emmert to study the nuances and legislative considerations as multiple states have proposed bills for athlete compensation. 

This working group includes 19 members consisting of 12 individuals from division one and three members from divisions two and three each. Of those 19 individuals, five are college presidents, with five athletic directors, three conference commissioners, two senior level athletic administrators and just one faculty member. There are also three student athletes serving on the working group.

To help coordinate and guide the working group in their efforts, the NCAA provided high profile staff liaisons, including both the vice president of policy as well as the executive vice president of regulatory affairs, which signals the magnitude of the issue facing the NCAA.

While the working group roster is filled with industry experts who have incredible backgrounds in intercollegiate athletics and higher education, these are also very busy individuals that cannot simply put their day jobs on hold. But should they?

It should come as little surprise that much of the talk coming into the NCAA national convention in January 2020, and President Emmert’s annual speech, was on athlete compensation. The lack of progress made on the issue, though, seemed to be the talk of the Association on the way out of town. States aren’t waiting on the NCAA and the federal government will soon intervene, too.

For such a critical issue as NIL, and with a growing number of states proposing their own legislation, it seems unlikely that the working group will be able to provide a realistic and actionable path forward to the overall membership in its April 2020 report. 

Due to the time sensitivity of state and federal legislation, maybe members of the Federal and State Legislation Working Group should consider taking research sabbaticals from their day jobs to solely focus on the name, image and likeness issue.

A research sabbatical allows professors to take an extended period of time to work on a research interest or to write a book, for example. The FSLWG could gain a lot of ground on its charged responsibility by creating a sub-committee of members that receive a sabbatical from their institution. 

The idea of taking a sabbatical to fix intercollegiate athletics may seem ridiculous to those in academia, but colleges and universities should be on board, too, because the NIL issue could significantly affect their campus.

NCAA working groups are announced whenever critical topics come to the surface. And while most working groups already include university and athletic department leadership, it may be time to leverage the collective know-how of college researchers across the membership. 

For example, send out a call for proposals as a research case study challenge, as announced recently by the College Sport Research Institute at the University of South Carolina.

Another though is that the NCAA could use the next round of their NCAA research grant program to award money to university researchers wanting to study critical issues facing the NCAA, such as athlete compensation, and put them together in a working group with unlimited resources.