Getty Images

The NCAA appears poised to step away from its role as a powerful -- and sometimes heavy-handed -- oversight body of its 1,100 members. The association on Monday released of a long-awaited draft of a reworked constitution. The document indicates the NCAA will no longer push back against name, image and likeness rights. It will also relinquish enforcement responsibilities, sending them down to the three divisions.

The document will now be sent to members for feedback and potential amendments before a vote is held at the NCAA Convention in January 2022. The draft was developed over the last three months by a 28-person Constitution Committee chaired by former U.S. secretary of defense Robert Gates.

The NCAA now "embraces" name, image and likeness while prohibiting pay-for-play as stated in the draft. It makes no mention of the NCAA's pursuit of Congressional intervention for an exemption that would create a federal standard. Since NIL started July 1, college athletics has proceeded largely as it has in the past.

For the first time, the NCAA would leave enforcement of its rules to the divisions and conferences themselves, according to the draft. Schools are currently compelled to report violations promptly to the NCAA. The draft states members must "report all rules violations to its respective NCAA division and conference in a timely manner." There are currently three divisions within the NCAA.

That leads to a huge question of what enforcement will look like in Division I, the most competitive level, which also has subdivisions for football. No mention is made of how enforcement would be structured or by whom.

Last week, an organization representing FBS athletic directors submitted a 16-point plan to reform the enforcement process. That group also advocated for the end of the controversial Independent Accountability Resolution Process.

"We've got to take a look at it from the timing standpoint," said Shane Lyons, chairman of the NCAA Division I Council. "If somebody murders somebody and 50 persons are watching with a smoking gun, four years later [in the NCAA] we're still reviewing this."

The constitution draft also allows divisions "authority and autonomy" to "restructure themselves." That could be the foreshadowing of federalization where a group of schools within a division split off. For example, the FBS, which currently holds 130 members across 10 conferences, could further divide itself along the lines of its autonomy conferences (Power Five).

An NCAA Transformation Committee co-chaired by SEC commissioner Greg Sankey is currently discussing "what it means to be a Division I member and how a division should be organized."

In general, the draft reflects a growing desire for the NCAA to step back from what was perceived as overreach in some cases by the nation's largest amateur body. In the draft, it is suggested the NCAA's main duties are to conduct championships and step in "when requested" on medical issues.

By one estimate, the length of the NCAA Constitution will shrink from 43 pages to 15 if the draft is adopted.

"That's kind of the whole gist of this thing to unlock all the restrictions we have in this thing to be able to operate," Lyons said.

The NCAA appears to be taking almost a laissez-faire approach to oversight in some cases. Example: Each division would be allowed to define "academic eligibility." The NCAA was already headed in that direction. Last month, an NCAA task force recommended ending the use of standardized test scores being used to determine initial eligibility. Divisions I and II have initial eligibility clearinghouses.

There is specific language detailing how the association should "defer to other regulating bodies" in cases "that may violate NCAA academic principles." That seems to indicate the NCAA would step away in cases were federal law is broken. For example: Title IX cases or instances or where individuals are charged with crimes that are outside the scope of NCAA enforcement. In two such recent situations, the NCAA was criticized for penalizing Penn State in the Jerry Sandusky scandal and investigating Baylor in a sexual assault scandal.

"What people don't understand sometimes … it wasn't a student-athlete issue, it was a situational issue," Lyons said. "The public wants the NCAA to do something. That's not the NCAA's role. When it is clearly just an athletic department issue, clearly the NCAA has to get involved."

The Board of Governors can call for a vote by an entire division that "it determines to be contrary to the basic purposes" of the constitution. That action can be overridden by a two-thirds vote of the entire membership.

The board would be shrunk from 21 to 9 if the constitution is passed. Athletes would have voting representation on the Board of Governors and Board of Directors.