University presidents have arrived in Indianapolis to begin a two-day retreat to examine the critical issues facing Division I intercollegiate athletics. The sessions, which begin Tuesday afternoon, will address critical issues facing NCAA Division I athletics: fiscal sustainability, academic performance of student-athletes and integrity.

“It’s time for creative solutions to the significant issues facing intercollegiate athletics,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said. “In order to protect student-athlete success, the collegiate model, amateurism and competitive equity, there must be substantive change to the enterprise.”

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On Tuesday, retreat participants will discuss the fiscal sustainability of Division I. Two additional sessions on Wednesday will focus on student-athlete academic success and fortifying the integrity of intercollegiate athletics.

Emmert and Kathleen McNeely, the NCAA’s vice president of administration and chief financial officer, will lead the first group discussion this afternoon. They will address the enormous diversity – and disparity – in Division I athletic budgets. They will challenge participants to consider new models for spending based on the NCAA values.   

“Division I members are incredibly diverse and we must recognize the different needs of our members and the financial situations they face,” Emmert said. “We should use our diversity as a way to find solutions, rather than a barrier to them.”

The second day of the retreat will begin with a conversation led by Kevin Lennon, the NCAA’s vice president for academic and membership affairs, about academic success.

Academics is one of our great success stories due largely to the fact that university president have held their ground and pushed for academic reform,”  Emmert said. “At the end of the day, our mission is to educate and graduate students, and prepare them for the future. Though we have made progress, there is more we can, and must, do.”

Lennon and Emmert will review the current work of the Committee on Academic Performance, including a review of initial eligibility standards, progress toward degree requirements, the meaning of APR as a measurement tool and the impact of the current penalty structure. In addition, the session will cover issues such as 2-4 transfers, academic fraud, the clustering of majors, time demands and freshman ineligibility.

In the final session of the retreat, Julie Roe Lach, the NCAA’s vice president for enforcement, will lead the group in a discussion on how to increase accountability and integrity in intercollegiate athletics.

“Integrity is a value that cannot be legislated. We can certainly define integrity, expect it and hold accountable ourselves and others for ensuring it,” Emmert said. “To do this effectively, the time has come to take an honest look at our rules and penalties to ensure they reflect our key missions: protecting and educating our student athletes.”

During the session, the participants will discuss four threats to the integrity of college sports: a lack of shared responsibility, a preponderance of rules that buries a few fundamental principles in a forest of minutia, a risk/reward perception that fails to deter the willingness to violate rules, and the force of external influences that threaten to overwhelm the enterprise.

At the end of the retreat, Emmert said he hopes there will be a general consensus on the best way to move forward on these three overarching issues, including the potential for specific proposals to be forwarded to the Division I Board of Directors, which will meet later this week.

“We will know if the retreat is a success after we return to our daily routines, at our conferences and campuses, and maintain the will and momentum to act,”  Emmert said. “If aggressive and strategic changes are made to address the challenges we face, we will know this retreat has served as a catalyst to securing a future for financial sustainability, integrity and academic success in Division I athletics.”