The NCAA released the second draft of its new constitution December 7, 2021. One of the changes in the new draft from the long-standing version is the make-up of the Board of Governors. The updated language reduces the overall number of people on the Board, while adding the inclusion of a former student-athlete and two independent members who are not currently employed or compensated by a member institution. What it does not specify is the requirement for inclusion of anyone with specific expertise in the areas of athlete health, safety, and welfare.
The Knight Commission issued several recommendations in response to the draft’s release, among them calling for the NCAA to “appropriately support college athlete well-being by requiring at least one independent director who is a designated expert and/or advocate on college athlete physical and/or mental health on each board.” This is supported by a 2020 Knight Commission survey that found 80 percent of Division I leaders supported having board members that explicitly represent the health, safety, and well-being of athletes. The addition of this expert to each board will directly reinforce the [NCAA’s] self-declared purpose “to support and promote healthy and safe intercollegiate athletics.”
The U.S. Council for Athletes’ Health (USCAH) strongly supports this Knight Commission recommendation. In tandem with student-athletes having a stronger voice for their own health and safety, there should be members of the governing boards that represent health and safety for all college athletes. Ideally, these would be independent, unbiased members without ties to the NCAA or its member institutions. The absence of this expertise and guidance would further illustrate the lack of true commitment to health and safety in the college health setting.