Monday's announcement by the NCAA set the stage for a major restructuring of college sports. Each division will have the ability to govern itself.
The country's largest and most influential governing body for college athletics has released a draft constitution of 18 1/2 pages. It was reduced from 43 pages in the previous three months under the leadership of president Mark Emmert.
The revised constitution is more focused on the NCAA's larger goals for athlete welfare than its predecessor, which was more specific.
It would give Division I, the highest level of college sport that includes major college football and 351 schools eligible to participate in the lucrative men's basket tournament, the freedom to change everything from the way revenue is divided to the rules and enforcement.
"Once this was started, we found that many of these issues were at the Division I level," Shane Lyons, West Virginia's athletic director, said to AP. He is also the chairman of Division I Council and a member on the constitution committee.
Changes should be implemented in less than one year.
Jack DiGioia (chair of the NCAA board and president of Georgetown) stated that "ratification of a new Constitution in January is the first stage in the process to transform NCAA governance." "A new constitution will give the divisions the flexibility that they need to act," he said.
After next week's special constitutional convention, the proposed new constitution needs to be submitted to more than 1,200 schools to get feedback. It could also be modified before being put to the full membership for a vote in Jan.
The NCAA's highest-ranking governing body, the Board of Governors, is now reduced from 21 to nine members and has new duties.
The question will be: What are the new responsibilities and roles of the board? Lyons stated that while they are still in all three divisions, their priorities and the tasks they would be performing would be limited to the very top issues of the association.
Emmert called August's convention, shortly after the Supreme Court had hammered NCAA in a ruling that made the association more vulnerable to legal challenges. It was quickly apparent that the new constitution was only the first step in the transformation of the NCAA. This deemphasized the Indianapolis-based association, and gave more power to schools.
The next phase is likely to be more contentious at the college level.
Greg Sankey, commissioner of the Southeastern Conference, and Julie Cromer, Ohio University's athletic director will be leading the Division I Transformation Committee. They have already begun to explore ways to restructure.
Lyons stated that there is a significant gap in Division I between schools with budgets of roughly $175 million and schools with budgets of $4 million. "We've tried many times to legislate from an egalitarian standpoint. Do you think there might be a new division? Is there a Division Four division? Is it possible for schools to break away from one another and form a Division Four? What are the requirements for membership?
He said, "So those were the things that we really will have to get down to the granular spot. Some of those are going be very difficult conversations.