NCAA poised to admit for profits with strings attached

Special membership would bar them from participating in governance

The NCAA has directed its three divisions to create a “for-profit member classification,” which will allow for-profits to participate in NCAA events but exclude them from the NCAA governance process.

The move is a partial victory for schools like for-profit Grand Canyon University (GCU), which faced resistance from nonprofit schools within the Western Atlantic Conference, who refused last year to schedule games with GCU because of its for-profit status.

GCU president Brian Mueller was tepid in his response to the announcement from the NCAA, saying he is "a little disappointed” that GCU would not be a full member with voting powers.

Some leaders of traditional NCAA members, however, had resisted the move. For example, Arizona State President Michael Crow has spoken out against the inclusion of for-profit schools, worried they will threaten the NCAA’s non-profit status. "Imagine a group of investors who are super football rah-rah types [saying] 'I'm going to put $150 million on the table. I'm going to build me a football team that's going to win the national championship.' I need a college to attach that to, so I can get a return to my investment," Crow said last year.

In a release accompanying the announcement, the NCAA noted that for-profits must participate "in a manner that complies with the NCAA's non-profit status."

John Infante, a former NCAA compliance officer, voiced concerns that the new rule may open the NCAA to litigation from for-profits, especially if the NCAA imposes additional restrictions on publicly traded schools like GCU (Young,, 9/13; Young, USA Today, 9/3/2013).

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