Livingstone’s support for student-athletes promotes positivity among Baylor coaches

Baylor men's basketball head coach Scott Drew celebrates the Bears' first Big 12 win of the season after beating West Virginia University 83-78 on Jan. 11 at the WVU Coliseum in Morgantown, W.Va. Photo courtesy of Baylor Athletics.

By Michael Haag | Sports Editor

Baylor President Linda Livingstone, who is also chair of the NCAA Board of Governors, gave a keynote address to the membership at the NCAA convention on Thursday. At that event — which was held at the Riverwalk in San Antonio — Livingstone stated her thoughts and concerns with the state of intercollegiate athletics.

“As a collective enterprise, we are both thriving and threatened,” Livingstone said.

Earlier that day, the Division I Board of Directors approved a host of recommendations that are intended to reform the top-end of college sports, from membership standards to the size of championship brackets in select tournaments or events.

Livingstone, however, urged that federal intervention is needed at the collegiate level.

“We need a safe harbor, to a certain degree, from antitrust complaints,” Livingstone said. “We’re not looking for, nor do we need, a broad antitrust exemption. But we do need the ability to make common sense rules without limitless threats of litigation.”

On Friday, Baylor men’s basketball head coach Scott Drew shared his support for Livingstone and talked about how grateful he was to have her strong voice. Drew also said he received a call from Gonzaga men’s basketball head coach Mark Few regarding Livingstone shortly before the press conference.

“Just five minutes before I came down here, Coach Few from Gonzaga called me and said, ‘Man, she was amazing. You’re so blessed to have her as president,’” Drew said. “I know she does a great job. All of us that work with her know what a great job she does. We’re really blessed to work for the best president and AD [athletic director Mack Rhoades] in the country, in my opinion.”

Baylor men’s tennis head coach Michael Woodson also gave praise to Livingstone for her work in the field of college sports. During a media availability Friday afternoon, Woodson told reporters that it’s easy to take someone like Livingstone for granted.

“I don’t think anybody realizes how important, truly, leadership is until you don’t have it,” Woodson said.

Woodson said both Livingstone and director of intercollegiate athletics Mack Rhoades have been incredibly influential and that “their footprint around the country is massive.”

“Our brand success has a lot to do with those two leading from the front,” Woodson said. “It really is very refreshing to know that the battles that we’re fighting and the value that we think we provide as an athletic department is shared by those in the highest positions.”

But with the NCAA struggling to regulate how athletes can be paid via their name, image and likeness, some fans have begun to worry about what that entails for the future of college sports. With athletic compensation in the mix, there are even some movements that could grant college athletes employee status.

Livingstone said she supports compensation for athletes through NIL but that they should not be employees of the schools they attend.

“That’s one of the questions that we’re working on, trying to answer that question,” Livingstone said. “It’s why protection of the status of our student-athletes is so important — that they be viewed as sort of a unique status on our campus, that they would not be employees.”

That passion is rare, as university presidents aren’t often involved in sports like this, and Woodson said the reason there’s that balance at Baylor is because Livingstone “understands it.”

“She played basketball at the highest level, and Mack as well,” Woodson said. “And so, for us, I think it’s necessary. We probably have the best one-two punch in the country. I feel like that’s not biased, but I am. I mean, it’s hard to really put into words. [I] feel good about where we’re at for sure.”