Georgia wide receiver Chris Conley’s question last January midway through a three-hour discussion about the new NCAA model seemed to catch the adults off guard. “Where do the student-athletes fit into this governance structure?” Conley asked at the NCAA convention before about 800 attendees.
Wake Forest president Nathan Hatch, the chair of the Division I Board of Directors, responded awkwardly, “That’s not something we’ve wrestled with.”
The header to the link article implies there’s a possibility that the new governance structure gives student-athletes a meaningful opportunity to have impact into rules that affect their lives. The math tells the real story, though.
The new model, assuming it’s not vetoed by the membership over the next two months, gives athletes 18.8 percent of the votes on all autonomy legislation proposed by the Power 5 conferences. For shared governance, athletes get 3.1 percent of the vote.
Wrestle with that, Chris. At best, it might give student-athletes a chance to broker something tightly contested where their small interest is just big enough to swing a vote. But there’s a problem with that, too. Let Conley spell it out.
Given their time demands and other interests, many college athletes understandably don’t actively follow NCAA issues that can directly impact them. Conley, who has been a committee member on SAAC and passionately
“Not everybody knows who to ask the right questions to,” Conley said. “A lot of guys will ask their teammates in the locker room and their teammates don’t know. So it’s like the blind leading the blind. We need to break down some of the barriers that people have when it comes to going to speak to administrators or going to speak to coaches or people who have worked extensively with the NCAA.”
Add in the fact that the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee is essentially gelded by the NCAA (a member of SAAC produced an NCAA document that she said requires any position of advocacy taken by SAAC must be approved first by the NCAA’s president or its executive committee) and I think it’s safe to hold off on any victory celebrations if you’re someone in favor of greater student-athlete say-so. And why unionization still makes a lot of suits nervous.