NCAA President Lays Out Agenda for Growth, Transformation

NCAA President Charlie Baker released key findings of his review of the NCAA national office's operations and the key trends facing college sports in the years to come. The findings also outlined a series of goals and strategies the NCAA will undertake to achieve those goals. Baker outlined several changes he plans to carry out to ensure student-athletes experience the life-changing opportunities college sports hold for years to come. 

"College sports remains in a period of dramatic transformation, and the NCAA must evolve in response to and anticipation of these changes," Baker said. "We can no longer pretend things are as they always have been — and our new way of doing business will ready the national office to move forward with urgency, purpose and a plan. I believe the results of this review provide a compelling and detailed vision that every NCAA action should anchor to."

One major finding included a clarified operating plan for the national office that prioritizes the needs of student-athletes and aligns the national office with member schools and conferences as partners in the effort.

The clarified guidance for the national office, "Provide a world-class athletics and academic experience for student-athletes that fosters lifelong well-being," is one part of a third party's thorough analysis of the Association's operations and structures. 

Baker's additional key findings ranged from overhauling the national office's functions to optimize workflow and spending to reforming the championship bid process to improve student-athlete experiences and revenue potential. The findings include a goal of tackling the growing officiating crisis by building a pipeline of officiating talent across the country. 

The review analyzed critical trends that student-athletes and the NCAA will face for years to come, including increased pressure on member schools because of the decline in college-age young adults, the skyrocketing costs of college, and new professional athletics opportunities. The influence of outside factors like social media and sports wagering, as well as the extraordinary change in the traditional media business model, also were considered carefully. 

"The NCAA will strive to support student-athletes who are dealing with an increasingly complex and publicly accountable environment in which they play the sports they love, and we will work with our members as they confront growing challenges in higher education and the sports world," Baker said. "College sports remain popular and will continue to grow, and there are more opportunities for growth ahead."

To address these trends, Baker set several goals for the Association:

  • Coordinate and deliver safe, fair and inclusive competition directly and via members.
  • Provide world-class services to student-athletes and members that leverage the NCAA's collective scale.
  • Grow the college sports ecosystem.
  • Deliver sustainable funding for the NCAA mission.

Baker's plan calls for action around name, image and likeness opportunities; the impact of sports wagering; mental health resources; and other forms of student-athlete support. Championships will be a particular focus moving forward, growing both viewership and sponsorships and also improving the experience for participants, fans, alumni and sponsors. Additional sport offerings will be explored.

The plan also acknowledges the rapidly growing disparity among Division I schools and calls for addressing the impact this gulf has on student-athlete experiences and competition. 

On Wednesday, Baker laid out the findings for the more than 500 national office employees in a staff meeting and for the Association's membership during governance meetings. He made clear the path ahead was ambitious, and it will take time and stakeholder buy-in to accomplish.  

"It won't happen overnight, but we must make major progress on items that are immediately in front of us in order to set the table for next year," he said. "We will get better at working together and moving more quickly than we have in the past. The world is changing quickly, and I look forward to working with our member schools to move faster."