NATIONAL COLLEGIATE ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION (NCAA) An Interview with Gail Dent, Associate Director of Public Relations THE NATIONAL COLLEGIATE ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION (NCAA) is the national governing body for athletes of more than 1,200 institutions and helps more than 460,000 college student- athletes who compete annually in college sports. The organization is headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana. NCAA is also responsible for administering the rules adopted by its member schools, organizing 89 national championships annually, providing educational services to coaches and athletics administrators, managing financial systems for the membership and conducting research into the experiences of those involved in college sports. While NCAA’s sports programs and championships keep the organization in the public eye throughout the year, 2015 has brought several essential, and in some cases, extremely divisive, policy issues to the fore – and caused the organization to weigh in on these. NCAA took what could be termed an inclusive stance, and its clout as an organization in the sports travel industry could not be ignored, either by lawmakers or by the public. Sports Destination Management: It has been a busy year for NCAA, but the sports travel industry really took notice starting prior to March Madness when the whole Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) came to national attention. It was NCAA that took an early stand on this. Do you see NCAA as an organization that helps shape policy – or do you think RFRA was something that simply came along at a time when its interests would clash with those of NCAA? Gail Dent:We addressed the matter as our core values call for an environment that is inclusive and non-discriminatory for our student-athletes, membership, fans, staff and families. We kept our various audiences and constituents in mind with regard to the issue. SDM: Do you think NCAA’s ability to look at areas to host events has broadened as a result of the Supreme Court decision on same sex marriage? More specifically, do you believe that now, with same sex marriage legal across the U.S., NCAA is going to be considering any areas it might previously have not? Dent: Following the RFRA matter, our governance structure decided to take a closer look at other states that may have an RFRA type policy or law. Looking at issues that could impact our membership will always be top of line for the NCAA. SDM: Of course, summer brought the Confederate flag issue to everyone’s attention. Mark Emmert, NCAA president, issued a public statement in support of the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina State House grounds. He further noted that as a national association, the NCAA opposes this symbol of racism, and since 2001 has demonstrated its opposition by not playing pre-selected championships in states where the flag was flown prominently. With that flag no longer flying in a governmental capacity in that state, South Carolina will be able to bid on hosting more NCAA events. What sort of feedback have you received – or has your staff received – regarding potential bids? Are you seeing a sudden uptick in interest? Dent: The earliest we would open bids for any city, state or organization would be in 2016 so we have not received any bids at this time. SDM: Student athletes (and students in general, as well as the public) have seen the NCAA take a stand on these social issues this year. What is your hope for a take-away they might have toward social issues in the future? Dent: Students are very vocal and observant today, so we hope that they look at NCAA principles and policy, which our membership created, when thinking about the importance and benefits of inclusion and diversity while they are in school and once they graduate.
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