Dr. Myles Brand took his job at the NCAA with great fanfare. Athletics and athletic departments were out of control. They had strayed from the true mission of the universities they represented. And Dr. Brand would set them straight. After all, he was a former university president and he was the guy who fired Bob Knight. There was gonna be a new sheriff in town – or so he led everyone to believe.
I don’t recall if it was in his introductory remarks or if he waited a day or so to pronounce that he and his former cronies, the university presidents, would put athletic programs around the country in their proper place and their proper perspective. But we haven’t heard much from him along those lines in the last year or so. If you think Dr. Brand and his cronies are “keeping their powder dry” and working quietly to effect monumental change, let me suggest that you might be dumb enough to think the Kentucky Derby is a hat.
Dr. Brand probably would not want to review the bidding on the record of his university presidents in the past year or so. Since he won’t, I will briefly give you a landscape setting before citing the three latest gaffes by these pillars of virtue in the academic world.
In the great Fresno State debacle that ousted Jerry Tarkanian, it was the university president who approved the hiring of this man whose history of NCAA violations and whose devotion to circumventing the academic standards of a university were well known. If the president there thought that Tark had changed his ways, then the president must have had his brain amputated.
Down in Georgia, it was even worse. President Adams not only approved the hiring of Jim Harrick Sr.; he inserted Harrick Sr. into the interview process well after the search committee had begun its deliberations based on the fact that he and Harrick had worked together in the past. It was also President Adams who waived the university’s nepotism rules to allow the hiring of Jim Harrick Jr. and to allow Harrick Jr. to offer for academic credit that abomination of a course about basketball coaching. With this track record, President Adams is in the running to be named “The Fourth Stooge”.
Northward to NY we travel in our memories to recall the St. Bonaventure forfeiture of the remaining games in its season last year because the team quit after one of its players was ruled ineligible and the team would have to forfeit games already played. It was the university president himself – not the coach or the athletic director – who certified this scholar-athlete as eligible for admission to the university even though the student did not receive his diploma from whatever JC he had been attending. Instead, he had a welder’s certificate and the university president accepted that credential for admission to the university. If this guy ever got an idea in his head, that would be tantamount to sentencing that idea to life in solitary confinement.
Recall that a Missouri basketball player wound up in jail for violating his probation when he stayed out beyond his curfew while at the home of the president of the University of Missouri for a barbecue. With that kind of support, this player needs no enemies.
Recently, the president of the University of Colorado found herself in the middle of allegations of sex parties for recruits and seven charges of rape involving football players or recruits. It wasn’t until Coach Gary Barnett said that one of the alleged victims was a girl and couldn’t kick the ball through the uprights that the president thought it might be wise to suspend Barnett pending an investigation. Obviously, no one in Colorado believed that she would conduct a thorough investigation; so the governor appointed the State Attorney General as a special prosecutor in this matter. Not an investigator, a special prosecutor. Fortunately she has been silent and unseen for the recent past meaning that she might dodge the title of “Weapon of Mass Stupidity”.
The Knight Commission recommends ways to improve collegiate sports. One of the things that it is considering at the moment is a recommendation to go back to the days of freshman ineligibility for varsity sports. The idea is that student-athletes should have a year in college to acclimate themselves and get themselves on a sound footing in their academic pursuits. Guess who opposes that idea. The university presidents oppose it because it would cost them money to fund freshman teams.
Memo to Dr. Brand: There is absolutely no way that a year in school without the pressures and time commitments to athletics can be harmful to your student-athletes’ pursuit of knowledge which is the fundamental purpose of your universities. So why don’t you get your buds to get on the track here and stand up for scholarship? What’s a few hundred million dollars, after all?
The latest entrant into the university presidents’ Hall of Shame has to be Dr. Robert Gates of Texas A&M. I can’t use a “stupid metaphor” on him because, in a former life, Dr. Gates was the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Just as Mark Twain once proclaimed after he had been released from an ”asylum” that he was the only sane man in the room because he had a certificate that said so, I suspect that Dr. Gates might simply say that he ran an organization that has “Intelligence” as its middle name and so he can’t be stupid. Nonetheless, Dr. Gates wants Texas A&M athletics to be better than they are and one of the ways he proposes to do that is to create “new majors” that might be more attractive to athletes – particularly junior college athletes who might be thinking of coming to A&M. Now there is a great idea to foster academics as the mainstream goal of a university. Maybe Dr. Gates could bring much of this full circle and hire Jim Harrick Jr. to be the department head for the agglomeration of these “new majors”. It could be the Department of Psuedo-Academics.
Let me give you an idea of how out of touch with reality and his university president colleagues Dr. Brand is. If he were going to put on a tribute to the recently retired Lucciano Pavarotti, he might hire Eminem to perform some of Pavarotti’s greatest arias. Like that would work.
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…