College sports always has turmoil. In the past few years, however, the situation has become untenable. The pandemic and how to address it while competing or not competing was a leading issue. There were also stark examples of gender bias in the treatment of athletes, which came to a head during last year’s basketball tournament. But it is the fact that the organization steadfastly resisted changes to the rules around athletes not earning income from their position as star-athletes while schools’ athletic programs reaped almost $19 billion in television deals, merchandise sales and other revenue streams in 2019.
The latter issue led to politicians weighing in on the matter. There was even criticism from Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who accused the NCAA of violating antitrust rules. Rather than waiting for the NCAA to change, some states took matters into their own hands, enacting laws that enabled athletes to earn income.
Less oversight favors the big programs
The NCAA struggled to reconcile the needs of member schools, which ranged from small liberal arts universities with student-athletes to D-1 powerhouses like Ohio State, whose annual budget for sports was more than $200 million. The new charter acknowledges that it can’t be all things to all schools. It is a slimmed-down 19-page document, highlighting such admirable goals as diversity, integrity, inclusiveness, and addressing athletes’ physical and mental health needs.
Ratified with 80% of the 1016 voting members, the new charter also decentralizes the power of the NCAA as college sports’ chief authority. This shift allows the D-1 powerhouses with the money to operate with fewer regulations. Still, critics point out that it benefits the wealthier programs, leaving Division II and III members further pushed to the periphery despite being a voting majority.
New guidelines for transgender athletes
The new charter also addresses the pressing issue of transgender athletes. As with other international and national sports federations, NCAA will now employ testosterone testing for athletes. Previously, transgender women only needed to take testosterone suppressing treatments for one year to qualify for women’s competition.