March 12, 2012
NCAA’s March Madness has begun. Before we get into the thick of the competition, have you ever thought about the association behind the Madness? The NCAA? Perhaps you’ve never thought of the National Collegiate Athletic Association as an association. The NCAA is a semi-voluntary association of over 1,000 educational institutions, conferences, organizations and individuals that manage the athletic programs of many colleges and universities in the United States and Canada. NCAA oversees 89 championships in 23 sports that involve more than 400,000 student-athletes competing in three divisions at its member colleges and universities.
Associations are formed to tackle problems that affect their industries and are bigger than any one individual or organization can handle on its own. They establish best practices; create programs to boost overall market share; promote industry education, standards and ethical practices; and present forums for member networking and dialogue. The NCAA is no exception. It creates standards at the highest level for members to abide by. It offers scholarships to give a financial boost to the individuals served by its members and it creates a sense of community among college athletic programs.
When the NCAA was founded in 1906, its mission was to protect young people from the dangerous and exploitive athletics practices of the time. Early college football was so violent, typified by mass formations and gang tackling, it resulted in numerous injuries and deaths prompting many college and universities to discontinue the sport. Thankfully, President Theodore Roosevelt stepped in and summoned college athletics leaders to the White House to encourage reforms….and as result, the NCAA was formed.
Every association (especially those with long histories) struggles to stay above reproach and current. In recent years the NCAA has come under scrutiny for allegedly failing to apply consistent standards when dealing with compliance cases, for alleged preferential treatment of athletes and accusations that its stated mission is inflexible. Some critics call the NCAA rules archaic, noting they were created at a time when sports agents weren’t a dime a dozen. Should the NCAA revise its policies? How can organizations with proven success still adapt to face the ever changing times? How can large organizations be nimble and know if and when it’s time to change?
The NCAA has received criticism for being inflexible in enforcing its regulations, namely the rule that forbids college players to receive any compensation beyond scholarships. I’m not proposing that the NCAA throw its rule book out the window and allow colleges to start cutting checks to student athletes, but the reality is that the organization needs to be able to adapt and grow, especially since college sports are now such cash cows. College players have complained (and filed class action law suits) because their names are printed on jerseys and their likenesses have been used in video games, but they have not been compensated. That certainly wasn’t an issue when the NCAA manual was first written. Associations should constantly be assessing their industry and considering any necessary policy changes. A strategic plan should be a living document that is updated often.
“Any association needs to have leadership that is in touch with the realities of the industry. The NCAA president and board has been steadfast in their desire for college athletes to maintain their amateur status, but they’re turning a blind eye to the millions of dollars riding on each game. This is not little league. Some have criticized the NCAA saying that they generate profit by exploiting young men without giving the athletes a voice. The board of directors at the NCAA needs to understand the pulse of athletics and be able to answer to such strong criticism. Any strong organization needs leadership that is prepared to tackle such polarizing issues, ” said Peter Rush, CEO of Kellen.
What do you think about the NCAA’s policies? Can you think of an association that has successfully adapted to changing times? Leave a comment with your thoughts!