Review of NCAA’s business pushes association to get creative

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A review of the NCAA’s business suggested the association should find creative ways to support member schools and conferences with things like developing a deeper pool of game officials, creating a national platform for online streaming of events and purchasing in bulk certain goods and services that most schools use.

The review was one of the first items on NCAA president Charlie Baker’s to-do list when he took over in March. The review was done by the firm Bain & Company and a summary of its key findings was released Wednesday by the NCAA.

The message: College and universities and college sports are facing growing pressures related to:

A decline in the college-age population and rising costs of attendance.

  • More professional options for athletes to forgo college.

  • Social media, sports betting and other outside influences having a potential negative impact on college athletes.

  • The changing landscape of media creating uncertainty for traditional partners.

“College sports remains in a period of dramatic transformation, and the NCAA must evolve in response to and anticipation of these changes,” Baker said in a statement. “We can no longer pretend things are as they always have been — and our new way of doing business will ready the national office to move forward with urgency, purpose and a plan.

“I believe the results of this review provide a compelling and detailed vision that every NCAA action should anchor to.”

The review looked at trends in college sports from all perspectives — athletes, fans, schools and business partners — in an effort to find ways the NCAA could better do its job.

“To address these trends, the NCAA must have an operating model and mission that are explicit and understood by all,” the review stated. “And there must be a more rigorous approach to business planning and follow through, with a new sense of urgency.”

The review also surveyed the more than 500 NCAA employees about how the association operates internally.

One of the takeaways was the need for more clear roles and goals for NCAA staff.

“Identify top 15-20 decisions within the national office and map out stakeholders and clear decision rights,” the report said.

The report recommended the NCAA become more creative in how its supports member institutions.

Among the suggestions was the NCAA working with members to develop a deeper and better-trained pool of game officials. Poor treatment by fans and teams and growing pressures of the job have led to a shrinking number of young officials.

The review suggested the NCAA could give members better access to not just things like equipment or technology but mental health services for athletes.

“Work with interested member institutions to create pool of qualified suppliers who agree to discounted prices that institutions could opt-into,” the report suggested.

The report also said the NCAA should aid members who produce their own broadcasts of sporting events to stream online by exploring “a single digital hub for viewing competitions.”

The NCAA should be more creative with its championship events to grow untapped potential, the report said.

Baker has acknowledged that the NCAA’s current media deal that bundles numerous championships, including the women’s basketball tournament, does not capitalize on the growing interest in sports beyond football and men’s basketball.

The NCAA is likely to unbundle those events when the current deal with ESPN ends next year.

The review suggested a “dramatic” expansion of content and sponsorship for the women’s basketball tournament.

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