Emmert Taps Brakes on Ambitious Plans for Change

New Orleans–Mark Emmert’s leadership advisory group, made up of top executives from all walks of industry, gathered here this weekend for its annual meeting, delivering an important message to the NCAA president: Keep taking the pulse of your complex organization as you push ahead.

The group heard updates from two college presidents about substantive NCAA rules and academic changes in the works, according to one person present. Then Joe Echevarria, CEO of Deloitte LLP, laid out what he sees as the challenges of leading an organization through transformational change.

One critical step in pushing big changes, Echevarria said, is understanding the pace at which such change should occur. Emmert has been criticized in recent months for moving too quickly on policies that lacked broad support.

Two measures approved by the NCAA Division I Board of Directors last fall faced strong opposition in recent months. One–a policy allowing programs to offer multiyear scholarships–narrowly escaped a membership override vote in February. The other–a plan to increase certain athletes’ scholarships by $2,000 to help pay for their full cost of attendance–was expected to be tweaked and approved at a board meeting later this month.

That now looks unlikely. The board may not take action on the $2,000 stipend until after league meetings this summer, when NCAA staff members will have a chance to hear more feedback from conference and campus officials, according to a college president familiar with the process. The board could vote on the stipend at its August meeting.

A bigger proposed change–revamping the NCAA’s rule book–seems even more unlikely to happen on schedule. Last year Emmert asked his rules working group to complete its work by this August, but members say the work has proved much more complicated than they had expected.

Among the challenges, says one committee member, are figuring out how much change member institutions really want, and deciding where to put the responsibility for enforcing violations.

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