NCAA President Mark Emmert recently sat down to discuss the reasons for the upcoming presidential retreat, how the guest list was decided upon and what would make the retreat a success.

Q: What is the goal of this retreat?
A: The goal is to examine the critical issues facing intercollegiate athletics today and to – collectively among all the presidents – determine the course of action that we need to be taking to address those challenges.  We especially need to address those challenges in the three key areas we’ve described: financial sustainability, integrity and academic performance.
We need to recognize that incremental change is insufficient to address those concerns and challenges. We need in several areas to have pretty systemic change if we are going to get ahead of these issues.

While laying out the framework for next month’s presidental retreat, NCAA President Mark Emmert said Tuesday that significant and strategic change is needed in Division I intercollegiate athletics.
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Q: Why are you doing this now?
A: This has been on my mind since I first decided I wanted to take on the job. Now, having spent nearly a year in the position, I have been able to identify the critical challenges before us and it’s time to get serious about addressing them with the presidential leadership.

Q: Is this retreat a reaction to all the media discussion of pay-for-play and the recent high-profile infractions cases?
A: We know the pressures of commercialism, the success of academic reforms, the new threats to the integrity of the intercollegiate model – those have been building for a number of years and it’s time to address them.  The high-profile cases are just a partial reflection of the dynamic that has been going on.  As the commercial support of athletics collides with the intercollegiate model of sports, we get these kinds of cases as an outcome – so they’re symptoms, not a cause.

Q: How did you decide on which presidents would attend this retreat?
A: I selected presidents, first of all, to make sure they were representative of the entire cross-section of Division I. So we have presidents from all of the conferences, from the various sizes and various kinds of institutions that comprise Division I. To that, I added a number of university presidents who have been long-standing leaders and engaged in the intercollegiate athletic process and who bring a particular knowledge and experience.

Q: The NCAA already has a governance structure in place. How does this retreat work with that structure?
A: First of all, the governance structure is very well represented and embedded into the retreat.  So, the entire Division I Board of Directors is there, the entire Presidential Advisory Group [from conferences not represented on the board]  is there, the Entire executive Committee of the board is there. So the core of this presidential group is in fact the governance leadership of the association, augmented by a number of other presidents.  It is part and parcel to our governance model, but it is focused particularly on presidents because that’s who, at the end of the day, has to make the decisions and provide leadership.

The governance process today, like all deliberative bodies, normally leads to incremental change, which most of the time is very useful, but in these cases we need more than incremental change. 

Q: What does success look like coming out of this retreat?
A: The retreat’s goals are to identify the directions and strengthen the resolve we have to move forward and take on the challenges in those three broad areas. We need aggressive and strategic changes so together we can get in front of the many challenges we face. And, finally, we need the kind of resolve that’s necessary to make assertive change.