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NCAA Calls Constitutional Convention Amid Turmoil

August 2, 2021

The National Collegiate Athletic Association announced late Friday that it would hold a specially called constitutional convention in November to consider potentially sweeping changes to how the national body governs sports programs at about 1,100 colleges and universities. The association plans to appoint a 22-person committee to propose what it called "dramatic" changes to be considered at the NCAA's annual meeting in January.

The announcement comes as the NCAA is facing an intense set of pressures from multiple directions: June's Supreme Court ruling that the association could not restrict some payments to athletes, opening the door to much more fundamental undermining of the NCAA's amateurism model; another round of conference switching involving the country's top football programs, threatening an all-out battle for control in the highly visible sport; and continued unhappiness from colleges at all levels about whether the NCAA is serving their needs.

"I think it's really the shifting legal environment, the economic environment, the political environment -- all of that -- that creates this opportunity in a lot of ways to stop and erase the blackboard and draw a new chart again," USA Today reported NCAA president Mark Emmert saying in an interview with reporters. "And that's a really, really powerful opportunity that can't be wasted."

The NCAA's announcement did not discuss what the "dramatic" changes might look like, but any restructuring is likely to try to keep all the association's members together under one big tent by distributing some of the authority now held by the NCAA itself to individual divisions, conferences and institutions. If the association is unable to do that, the most powerful sports programs could follow through on long-standing threats to pull away and govern themselves.

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