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Thursday was a historical moment in collegiate sports history with the adoption of a structure that enables NCAA autonomy, but it was business as usual for the Big Ten Conference and the University of Nebraska, one of 14 conference members. Commissioner Jim Delany distributed this comment from Chicago:
“We are pleased with today’s vote by the Division I Board of Directors,” Delany said. “With the adoption of a structure that allows for autonomy, we can begin enacting legislation that addresses a variety of important student-athlete issues. I couldn’t feel better about our colleagues in the Big Ten, or those in other conferences, who put in so much time and effort proving once again that as an industry we are capable of coming together on behalf of our student-athletes. The new governance structure preserves the many traditions of Division I athletics while directly impacting all student-athletes competing at that level who will benefit from improved academic, health and safety initiatives resulting from the additional resources generated by the NCAA Basketball Tournament and other NCAA revenues. We look forward to moving past the process that brought us structural autonomy and onto the prospect of substantive reform that focuses on education and student-athletes.”
Nebraska Director of Athletics Shawn Eichorst stayed true to the culture he leads and supports, sending a detailed email direct to each of Nebraska's 600-plus student-athletes immediately after the new legislation was approved. Here is the full text of that letter:
"Dear Husker Student-Athletes,
I hope you are having an enjoyable summer and we look forward to seeing and working with you this upcoming academic year.
The 2013-2014 year was one of the best in the history of the University of Nebraska as your academic, athletic and community engagement accomplishments set new heights. These successes are the direct result of your commitment to our mission, core values and positive culture. Our primary mission is to provide you with the resources and support that you need to be successful in academics, athletics and life. Our core values of Integrity, Trust, Respect, Teamwork, and, Loyalty are at the heart of everything that we do and your health, safety and welfare are at the essence of every action we take.
I greatly respect and appreciate all of your hard work and dedication, as pursuing a degree while participating in intercollegiate athletics is no easy task. My career in collegiate athletics as a student, competitor and administrator has spanned nearly two decades. The education and experiences have had a profound impact on my life, being a first generation college graduate, and have afforded me opportunities that I never could have imagined. I received a tremendous undergraduate education, competed in football and returned as an administrator at a NCAA Division III institution. I have had the pleasure to serve as an administrator at four NCAA Division I schools which compete in the SEC, ACC and Big Ten. Though size, scope, mission and finances vary among schools and certainly among conferences and divisions, there remains one constant: the student-athlete educational opportunities and experiences associated with intercollegiate athletics.
I have had the great pleasure of daily interactions with many of you in formal and informal setting, and the discussions have often centered on your student-athlete experience. In fact, I met earlier this morning with a number of our student athletes who serve in leadership roles representing a cross-section of our sports programs. We had a robust and inspiring conversation, in which we agreed to remain focused on our mission, core values and getting better each and every day.
As you are aware, the current role and values of intercollegiate athletics are being debated, with a focus on the value of an education and the welfare of student-athletes. At Nebraska, Chancellor Harvey Perlman, Faculty Athletics Representative Jo Potuto, many others and I have been fully engaged in these conversations and have been strong advocates of a 21st century NCAA governance and rules structure that will allow us to provide more resources and support to you, as well as to provide you with a voice and vote in the decision-making process.
Today, we are extremely pleased that the NCAA Board of Directors approved a generational change in how the membership is governed, providing increased autonomy and authority to the five major Division I conferences, including the Big Ten. The exact details and outcomes of these changes are yet to be determined. However, they will offer us the ability to lead and provide you with an improved student-athlete experience. Though no specific legislative proposals have passed through the new structure, it is anticipated that the five major Division I conferences will look to use their resources and discretion to 'enhance the well-being of student-athletes' in areas like financial aid, health and wellness, meals and nutrition, expenses and benefits, career pursuits, insurance and career transitions, time demands, academic support, recruiting and personnel.
The action taken today also provides amplification to the voices of student-athletes around the country. For the first time in history, active student-athletes will be voting members of the new Board of Directors and will represent the more than 170,000 student-athletes in Division I. Along with other changes in the composition and procedural matters of the Board and Council, legislative proposals which benefit you will have a much greater success of being enacted and reaching you on campus here in Lincoln. Please click this link to read the NCAA’s official announcement of these groundbreaking changes.
The University of Nebraska has a tremendous history, tradition and reputation of serving the needs of its student-athletes and we have been – and will continue to be – a trailblazer at the cutting edge of academic support, life skills and career services programming, medical and athletic training care, nutrition and training table services, strength and conditioning support, and community engagement opportunities among other areas. In fact, just in the past year, in an effort to improve your experience, we have provided additional resources and full-time staff members in Academic Support, Athletic Medicine/Athletic Training, Life Skills, Alumni Relations, Sports Nutrition/Training Table and Strength & Conditioning. We have opened the first of its kind, state-of-the-art, Nebraska Athletic Performance Laboratory complete with an exceptional staff and technology to enhance your performance, health and safety. We have brought in nationally recognized experts in leadership and teamwork, and we have created a spring break learning abroad program that will include student-athlete participation beginning in 2015. The 240+ full-time administrators, coaches and staff work extremely hard to provide you with a world-class experience. Please click this link to a recent Connecting on Campus column I wrote. It provides additional information and insight into the resources and support available.
However, there is more work to be done and we will continue to do more when necessary and permissible. Additionally, we will continue to engage and collaborate directly with you, to seek your thoughts and suggestions, as your opinions matter. I and/or at least one of our senior administrators will continue to participate in all Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) meetings and maintain our open door policy.
Today’s historic vote and change in the governance of the NCAA is a positive step forward. Though there are still a great many unknowns, I am confident that the first class services, support and opportunities that we currently provide will only get better and we will continue to work hard every day to that end. Thank you for all that you do for Nebraska and for representing this great institution with honor, class, integrity and sportsmanship. Best of luck this upcoming academic year.”
Go Big Red! Shawn
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