By Leah Allen
BC Staff Writer
National Collegiate Athletics Association President Mark Emmert was the guest speaker at the first Colloquia event of the school year Tuesday Delta State University.
“President Emmert has championed greater support for student athlete wellness and academic success. He has put student athletes first and has taken on major challenges,” said DSU President Bill LaForge.
Emmert explained how approximately 65 schools came together in 1904 to “run college sports and make sure that it is focused on students being students, on taking care of them physically and mentally and on creating a level playing field.”
“It has grown from 65 schools to over 1,100 colleges and universities but the same principals and the same issues exist today. Today we talk about three things academic success, health and well-being and fairness. Exactly as was laid out in 1904 as the cornerstones of our organization,” he continued.
Emmert said the NCAA has improved the lives of student athletes through these three guiding principals.
“American collegiate sports are focused on and devoted to human development. I don’t see the NCAA as being in the sports business. We’re in the human development business of American higher education.
“We want and need our student athletes to be better as men and women after they finish their collegiate lives for having been student athletes. When we do studies of what has happened in the lives of student athletes (after college) the data is unequivocal,” said Emmert.
He said they are more likely to be leaders, to be healthy and “to be successful in all the ways we in higher education measure success.”
Emmert said how collegiate sports can help student athletes stand out in a difficult job market.
“Employers know of all the things that you learn as a student athlete that are very hard to teach. Student athletes know how to overcome adversity, be persistent, communicate with others, rely on others and deal with conflict. They have all of these soft skills and have had to deal with enormous time demands. Employers recognize that,” he said.
He also said increased graduation rates for student athletes has been a priority during his time as NCAA president.
“Student athletes have higher graduation rates than non-athletes at virtually every NCAA member institution. Everybody on campuses understood that this was a focus.
“We kept increasing the standards and when you increase standards, people tend to perform. We created a series of metrics and attached to them ways to assess how students and teams were doing. Finally we added incentives and disincentives,” Emmert said.
He discussed the focus of the organization on the health and safety of student athletes.
“We are constantly making things better. We are leading by far the biggest concussion research study in history. It is a massive study we are doing with the Department of Defense. We have tens of thousands of participants in the study. It’s a $45 million study we are funding with the federal government,” he said.
Emmert also discussed the steps the NCAA is taking to help prevent violence against women.
“It’s an issue that has always been there but now it is getting what I consider to be the appropriate amount of attention and it’s about time. We are dealing with it in many different ways,” he began.
“One thing that the board of governors did was to empanel a standing commission on prevention of sexual violence. We have brought in the best minds and thinkers on the subject including victims and victim’s advocates,” he began.
He said that each university has it’s own policies and procedures but the NCAA “created a requirement that all schools would have to put in place a serous set of policies for responding to any allegations of sexual assault. They had to be written down, all people involved in college sports had to know what those procedures were and what to do should there ever be any allegations.
“A student athlete has to be treated exactly the same as a non-athlete and the athletics department cannot be involved in the adjudication process,” he added.
He also explained that if it appears that these policies are not being followed “particularly if it appears a student athlete was given a pass” the NCAA would step in and investigate the situation.
Emmert also discussed the need to carefully monitor the recent lift of the sports betting ban to ensure that it doesn’t have a negative impact on student athletes.
“We have to work like crazy to educate our student athletes. They could find themselves in a real pickle. When the game is over they go back to the dorm or their fraternity house and some fraternity brother might have just lost $500.
“They might say, ‘Can you try and miss that field goal next month?’ that’s not a scenario we like at all,” he said.
Ultimately, Emmert was positive about the future of collegiate sports.
He said with “all the criticism that is out there, and there is plenty that is justified, it’s extremely easy to miss what has happened that is so positive about college sports in this country.”
By Leah Allen