The setting was the famed New York Times building on a gorgeous June morning in the Big Apple. With a floor to ceiling view offering a panoramic view of the West Side and Hudson River, NEC Presidents convened on Monday for their semi-annual meeting with Commissioner Noreen Morris and Conference staff.While there were a number of hot topics on the agenda, it was the arrival of NCAA President Mark Emmert just before noon that had the room buzzing. Emmert, who assumed his role at the national office in November, 2010 following six years as President of the University of Washington, addressed the CEOs on a number of national issues before engaging in an informative Q&A with the group.
“This is a dynamic moment in intercollegiate athletics.”
– Mark Emmert’s opening remark to the group
The last year has witnessed seismic changes in the college landscape, with conference expansion and changes in league affiliation among BCS football powers sparking a trickle-down effect that has ultimately reached basketball-centric mid-major conferences such as the Atlantic 10, CAA and Horizon League. Through it all, Emmert has remained upbeat about the current state of the NCAA and its future.He was quick to point out academic success and graduation rates are up across all three NCAA divisions, but has devoted much of his time to reinforcing the “student” aspect of student-athletes. As such, Emmert has championed the strengthening of APR standards and initial eligibility requirements. “Academic reform will have a sea change impact on intercollegiate athletics,” he noted. Emmert also focused on his quest to reinforce ethics and integrity in intercollegiate athletics, which includes a two-pronged approach of reinventing the NCAA penalty structure and ridding the extensive NCAA manual of what he considers “background noise.” Though the popularity and interest in college sports has never been higher, Emmert is also committed to changing the public perception of Division I athletics, and not let isolated problems paint the picture of the entire NCAA membership. “Most ADs and coaches will say the integrity of intercollegiate athletics has never been higher, though there are still issues we need to address.” “We need to stay on message across the board and focus on providing opportunities for student-athletes to lead a better life.”
The group went on to engage Emmert on a variety of topics, most notably, the NEC’s desire for each conference to have a representative on the NCAA Board of Directors. The President indicated that NCAA representation and governance issues are at the top of his agenda, and that membership concerns with the decision making process will be reviewed in depth by the national office.Wrapped around Emmert’s brief New York City visit – which included this Q&A with the New York Times – the NEC Council of Presidents met on a wide range of topics. The group was updated on the progress of the league’s new Strategic Plan, currently in development by the Commissioner and Strategic Planning Committee. The Presidents spent considerable time formulating language related to the Core Values, Vision Statement, NEC Profile and New Member Considerations sections of the Strategic Plan. The CEOs also approved the six goals that will serve as the Strategic Plan’s foundation. Morris led a detailed discussion on the current state of conference realignment. The Presidents offered unanimous support on the current direction of the NEC under its present alignment and emphasized a “value added” approach when considering expansion in the future. The Presidents approved a recommendation to furnish all 12 member institutions with LED signage for their basketball arenas in time for the 2012-13 season. The group also affirmed an Athletic Director proposal to reduce the conference schedule in men’s basketball from 18 to 16 games beginning in 2013-14.
Robert Morris President Greg Dell’Omo was named the new chair of the NEC Presidents Council. Dell’Omo will assume the role held by Tom Powell of Mount St. Mary’s, who completed his two-year term. The Council presented Powell with an NEC commemorative basketball, thanking him for his service to the Conference. Bryant’s Ron Machtley, who now takes on Dell’Omo’s role as Vice Chair, was also presented with a keepsake from the group, officially welcoming Bryant to the NEC upon the completion of its five-year NCAA reclassification process this summer.
Dr. John Petillo of Sacred Heart was awarded the 2012 Brenda Weare Commissioner’s Cup, Joan Martin Commissioner’s Cup and NEC Building Communities award. Vice Admiral Paul Gaffney of Monmouth accepted the Men’s Commissioner Cup award.
The Presidents of the NEC football schools met as well and reviewed a variety of topics.Morris happily reported that FCS bracket expansion from 20 to 24 teams could become a reality as early as August, needing to clear one last review by the NCAA Executive Committee. If approved, the expansion ensures all eligible conferences – the NEC included – will receive automatic qualification to the FCS playoffs. The group also discussed the NEC’s current football scholarship limits, which will cap at 40 athletic-related equivalencies in the 2013 season. There were no proposals made to change the current financial aid structure at this time, but the Presidents will continue to evaluate and assess this area at both the institutional and national levels. The Presidents next meet formally in January at St. Francis (NY) College. June 13, 2012