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Former NCAA Chief: ‘I Don’t See the Demise of the NCAA Being Profitable for Anyone’

Atlanta — To hear many people tell it, the NCAA has never faced a bigger set of challenges. That’s not exactly the view of Cedric Dempsey, who I caught up with ahead of this evening’s national semifinals.

Mr. Dempsey, who served as the NCAA’s president from 1994 to 2003, handled a few high-profile crises during his tenure. And he points to moments in the 1970s and 1980s when the association faced significant legal disputes and internal squabbles that he believes rival those of today.

One big change that happened on his watch was a restructuring of Division I governance, in the late 1990s, a move that caused much angst.

“When we changed to a more representative system of governance—and away from the one-school, one-vote model—it disenfranchised a lot of people from the process,” he says. “I think some of the concerns you’re seeing today relate back to that decision.”

Mr. Dempsey, who now consults on athletics issues, doesn’t expect Division I programs to move away from the representative model. But he does predict another NCAA restructuring, with the wealthiest programs likely moving into a separate subdivision.

One thing he doesn’t foresee: those powerful programs’ breaking away, a move that others have predicted.

“I don’t see the demise of the NCAA being profitable for anyone,” he says. “This will get worked out.”

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