After tonight’s March Madness final game, I will have some suggestions for the folks in charge of the rules of the game to improve college basketball. However, before that final game, which I intend to watch and to enjoy just as I have every NCAA Tournament final game since 1954, there are a few issues related to the seamy underbelly of the NCAA and collegiate sports that need explication.
The following comment comes from Rick Telander in the Chicago Sun-Times and it frames one of the most important – if the THE most important – questions regarding collegiate athletics in the present time:
“I FIND THIS STATEMENT about the NCAA’s fetish over amateurism from Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowsky back in 2011 rather forward-thinking: ‘‘Unless the student-athletes in the revenue-producing sports get more of the pie, the model will eventually break down. . . . It is only a matter of time.’ “
Please notice that commentary comes from the commissioner of one of the second tier conferences within the collegiate sports structure today. These are not the words of some idealistic professor of medieval Norse musicology at some school you may or may not have ever heard of; these words come from a guy involved in the athletics of a collegiate conference.
Juxtapose those remarks about “amateurism” and the “college sports model” with the ongoing situation at Rutgers University. The basketball coach has been fired for his troglodyte behaviors; the AD has been fired because he had video evidence of the troglodytic behavior and only suggested a suspension/fine for the coaching miscreant. And now, we learn that the President of Rutgers University played the Sergeant Schultz card as all of this unraveled in real time and now the President claims to have “known nothing … NO-THING”.
If you want to read what one person – who happens to feel the way I do about this matter and what the President of Rutgers needs to do now – thinks about the situation, might I suggest you read Mike Vaccaro’s column on the subject in the NY Post last weekend.
Should anyone want to read what I think about university presidents in general and about why they are no more able to be the “police force” that will go forth to clean up collegiate athletics, may I direct you to a rant that I wrote on this subject just a tad more than a decade ago.
Let me be clear. University presidents are not part of the solution to the problems encompassing college athletics; in more cases than ought to be comfortable, many university presidents are enablers – at best – or are active participants in shenanigans that undermine even a façade of “student athleticism”. University presidents are nothing more than glorified fund raisers for institutions that happen to have tax exempt status and who have offices on the property generally inhabited by those institutions. If you think that description is cynical allow me to remind you that the only difference between a cynic and a realist is whether you agree with him or not.
Remember, Dr. Myles Brand ascended to the throne of “NCAA Plenipotentiary” with the stated intent of having university presidents rein in those out-of –control and rogue athletic departments. I know it is unseemly to speak poorly of those who have passed on, but the fact is that Dr. Myles Brand had his head up his butt when he took that job as head of the NCAA and managed to do nothing important to further his stated goals – even though anyone with an IQ higher than a typical thermostat setting knew that none of that stated nonsense meant anything more than a pinch of panda poop to him. With regard to anything remotely related to the “student-athlete model” of collegiate athletics, Dr. Brand died in the same state as he entered that job; he was an asshat…
University presidents have been up to their armpits in scandalous situations involving college athletics for more than a century now and they have continued to be involved in them since the coronation of The Glorious Dr. Myles Brand and his successor “The Pompous Mark Emmert. No matter what the communications majors who have been hired by the NCAA to make placement numbers look good and/or the mavens who nominally run the organization have to say, the NCAA is a species that will face extinction unless it reinvents itself in a positive way and not just a way that sounds politically correct but does not include real and significant changes in the rules they choose to enforce and the methods by which they enforce them. The NCAA is a modern day dodo bird; its intrinsic behaviors will be its own undoing.
Forget all the problems from “way back when” in the 1990s; just recall the roles of these university presidents more recently:
Graham Spanier – Penn State – as the Jerry Sandusky situation unfolded for about a decade in State College, PA.
E. Gordon Gee – THE Ohio State University – during the time when Jim Tressel knowingly played academically ineligible players.
Lois DeFleur – Binghamton University – as it became obvious that the school had admitted basketball players who are academically unsuited to college in any sense of the word and who turned out to be as involved in criminal activities as any of them might have been in academic activities.
David Pershing – Univ. of Utah – who led a school during a time when its swim coach allegedly showed up at practices in an inebriated state and abused one of the athletes to the point where he passed out from having to swim underwater with his hands tied to a piece of plastic pipe.
Folks, reality says that university presidents are incapable of dealing with the abuses of athletic departments and/or coaches within those departments for a simple reason:
Athletics is the attraction that brings a significant fraction of the donations to many schools.
If the president pisses off the “athletic donors” then total giving to the university might decline.
University presidents hold their jobs and will continue to hold their jobs so long as university fund raising, in toto, increases this year and continues to increase over the tenure of the university president.
The fact that a university president would not go out of his/her way to piss off the athletic donors is nothing more than self-preservation/enlightened self-interest.
The NCAA needs an organizational enema. Mark Emmert did not create the problems that burden the NCAA in 2013, but he is the colonic blockage that exists at the time when that organizational enema needs to be administered.
Ten years ago, I suggested that the NCAA might be made into a Reality TV show called “Look What I Am About To Flush”. Would that the NCAA might have moved higher on the evolutionary ladder since then…
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………