Keenum joins D1 presidents for reform talks

Last week's gathering of university presidents and NCAA officials in Indianapolis is very likely to be a turning point in college athletics, according to Mississippi State University President Mark E. Keenum.

"I respect and admire NCAA President Mark Emmert's vision and recognition of the urgency for change from the status quo. There was a very real sense of urgency among all of the presidents during our discussions," he said.

Keenum was the only president from a Southeastern Conference western division school invited to the intensive two-day retreat of approximately 50 Division I leaders.

"I was honored to represent the SEC and be a part of this process," he said.

At the conclusion of last Wednesday's proceedings, the presidents released five priorities for the intercollegiate athletic organization to address:

-- Rewrite the NCAA rulebook to reduce the number of rules and focus on the most significant issues.

-- Improve academic standards for student-athletes and tie a team's academic performance to participation in all NCAA championships.

-- Revamp the NCAA penalty structure and increase the levels of violations.

-- Refocus the NCAA enforcement staff to concentrate on major infractions.

-- Strengthen the academic requirements for incoming freshmen and student-athletes who transfer from two-year institutions.

"We had unanimity in support of these recommendations, and now will be forming task forces to develop ideas and solutions to bring before the NCAA board of directors," Keenum said. "This process will be on a fast-track to expedite and implement a number of very important changes."

The reforms are expected to enhance student-athletes' welfare, protect academic integrity, ensure financial sustainability, and strengthen the collegiate model of athletics.

"We plan to make some decisions across very important areas in a matter of months and weeks, not in years," Emmert stated in a news release. "No one in the world believes we are capable of making significant change. So we need to prove that we can."

Keenum noted that the SEC has been a trendsetter in recognizing opportunities and utilizing resources, and he expects that leadership to continue.

"Our conference has been able to strengthen academic programs and build very successful athletic programs by putting students first," Keenum said. "I expect such an emphasis will continue to guide college athletics in the days to come. We have a bright future."

For additional information about the NCAA presidential retreat, see

Jim Laird | University Relations

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