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75th Anniversary Features

  75 Years and Counting..What Will the NJCAA Look Like in 2088?

May 21, 2013

NOTE: As part of the ongoing celebration of its 75th Anniversary, the national headquarters of the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) will release nine insightful articles during the 2012-13 academic year that will make up the NJCAA 75th Anniversary Feature Series. Below is the ninth and final installment of the series, which can also be found in the May issue of NJCAA Review.

By Mary Ellen Leicht, NJCAA Executive Director

What a year it has been. I know from the feedback our office has received, our organization has enjoyed looking back at the history, milestones and triumphs during the NJCAA’s 75th Anniversary celebration. I personally have relished the opportunity to learn more about the people who envisioned, created and made memorable this great organization. We are reminded of what is possible. I am inspired and driven more than ever as the Executive Director of the NJCAA.

However, as we close this year of celebration the question which begs to be asked is, “Where do we go from here?” What would we see if we were able to look 75 years into the future? Will we be as visionary as our forefathers? What decisions or initiatives will we move forward to further advance the next 75 years of two-year college athletics?

First of all, let’s start with what I consider the obvious. Athletics at the two-year college level will continue to provide an avenue for higher education. That statement is as true today as it was in 1938 and I believe it will still be the driving force in guiding the association in 2088. But what changes need to be made to address the current emphasis on completion and student success? I believe our focus will shift from merely earning credit hours to ensuring our student-athletes progress towards a degree. I hope to see NJCAA eligibility certification processes continue to move in the direction of not merely entering numbers but rather educating those on our college campuses in charge of applying academic and eligibility rules for participation by expanding the current Eligibility Seminar concept.

In addition, as college administrators continue to be challenged with ever increasing workloads, the development of an Eligibility Review Center (ERC) will become a reality rather than an item on our wish list.

For as long as I can remember, the association has been tasked with developing marketing opportunities that not only bring revenue into the association but decrease costs for our member colleges. Accepting that challenge has been a daunting task, but one which can be attained in the future if we accept what we have only begun to recognize as our biggest asset -our numbers. As we learn to maximize those numbers, our marketing efforts will focus on presenting a unified front to potential association-wide partners. Our goal being to help member colleges minimize costs for goods purchased on an annual basis. The key to our success lies in our ability to join together and recognize that we are not competing against one another but instead are all on the same team striving for a common goal.

As a result of our ability to negotiate based upon the strength of our numbers, we can begin to reassess the cost of membership in the future. In addition, member services in the years to come will be enhanced and programs developed to recognize the academic and athletic accomplishments of our student-athletes for generations to come.

How will we stay connected and united in our efforts? Technology will continue to be our ally as systems are upgraded to maximize the exposure of our student-athletes both on the field and in the classroom.
Already the NJCAA is working on more efficient modes of communication. We need only look at how we disseminated information a mere 20 years ago to understand the potential technology has for our future.

To an outsider, what will the NJCAA look like organizationally in the years to come? Recognizing that geographical representation will likely continue to be the most desirable model for the NJCAA, will our current 24-region structure continue to work effectively or will it be necessary to create a different leadership model to address the current questions of divisions? We are challenged today with the multitude of options available in our organizational system which allows institutions to choose a divisional status by sport. Looking into the future, colleges could be required to commit to a specific scholarship category by institution, rather than our current declaration by sport. Should there ever be a time when a new divisional model seems appropriate, the NJCAA first would be tasked with developing a solution to address those sports that currently cannot support more than one division or presently participate in only two divisions.

Should the membership in the years to come choose to revamp the association’s structure from the ground up...regional alignment, divisional restructuring, a fully functioning eligibility review center? Could this also mean an end to separate men’s and women’s divisions as we have known them since 1975?

No one really knows what the future will bring. With that in mind, I would like to emphasize that every concept outlined above is purely the ramblings of someone who won’t be around 75 years from now!

Rest assured however, should any of these ideas come to fruition they will be built upon the same principles employed by our founding fathers in 1938. Those being the ideals of teamwork, loyalty, ethics and an unwavering belief in who we are and why we are here...to improve the lives of our student-athletes.

If we are to direct and control our own future, the time to dream is now because 75 years go by quickly….just ask Oliver Byrd.

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