The NCAA – hardly my favorite institution in the world – has been in the news recently. President Mark Emmert seems to me to be setting folks up for a “big event” involving “fundamental change” in the institution itself. I would love to see that happen; I have difficulty, however, believing that all the folks who work at the NCAA are going suddenly to do something that is not in their self-interest. Here is what has been showing up in the media over the last week or so.
CBSsports.com quotes Mark Emmert here:
“I think the board anticipates a lot of change. They’re going into their October and January meetings expecting to look at a whole different governance model for Division I. So it will be significantly different.”
Emmert also said that he and others agree that the governance of Division 1 athletics is broken and needs fixing. That is a very positive sign; there is no way that I could imagine any of Emmert’s predecessors – all the way back through Walter Byers back in the 1950s – saying such a thing out loud and in public. Label me a skeptic at this point. I hope that the NCAA can reform itself and become a positive and useful institution in the future; I hope that the change can come from within the structure of the NCAA and the member institutions; I will need to see that happen before I climb on a bandwagon and start waving an NCAA banner.
Another NCAA announcement recently is that they are going to reduce the penalties levied on the Penn State football program and will begin to reinstate the forfeited scholarships starting next year. That is a good decision and a good sign too. The problem with ballyhooing it as a huge deal is that the NCAA should never have taken scholarships away from Penn State in 2012 for things that happened a decade before that and which had nothing to do with football. I wrote about that a little more than a year ago here.
I mention the Penn State sanction and linked to my previous rant because one of the things that the NCAA board needs to do at its October and January meetings is to determine exactly why there is an NCAA and from that “why” to determine what the NCAA is going to do. If I were the “facilitator” for the board meetings that sought to address those issues, I would try to get the board members to come to an agreement on three simple declarative sentences that state the overarching and continuing purpose of the NCAA. For me, those sentences would be:
1. The NCAA exists to provide positive cash flow to member institutions.
2. The NCCA exists to maintain a level playing field for all member institutions.
3. The NCAA exists to punish member institutions which act in opposition to #1 or #2 above.
Until and unless the NCAA and the board members begin to deal with issues that have sullied the image of the NCAA over the past decade, any “reforms” that are made to “Division 1 governance” will not amount to an ounce of ovine offal.
Now the elephant in the room for the NCAA is the “paying the players issue” and the idea that players are employees of the universities and not “student-athletes”. That issue can only be addressed once the NCAA itself identifies why it exists in the first place. If there is to be real and significant “reform” of the NCAA, the institution will need to do significant introspection and come to a point where it is willing to challenge many of the internally accepted “facts of life” that permeate any large organization that has been around for 50 years or more.
Moreover, consider this item from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot about a month ago:
“Bottom line: The Washington Post reports that Maryland’s athletic department operated at a deficit of more than $21 million for the past academic year. Keep that in mind the next time the subject of paying college athletes comes up.”
No one ever said this was going to be a simple matter…
I do not often say nice things about the NCAA. In this case, I will say that Mark Emmert’s comments open the door to real and meaningful changes to an organization that has outlived its usefulness. I am not convinced that it can heal itself – but I am willing to say his remarks are encouraging and that I would like to be proven wrong in my skepticism.
Meanwhile, the NCAA investigation of the University of Miami based on the allegations of Nevin Shapiro still hangs in the air. The fact that the NCAA investigators here make Inspector Clouseau look like Sherlock Holmes has to be a part of the lengthy process; the organization has to worry a bit about looking abjectly inept if they just put everything out there for all to see. In any event, Greg Cote had this item in the Miami Herald recently regarding that investigation:
“Parting thought: Could someone please wake the NCAA and remind them Miami is still awaiting a final decision? You know how Job, from the Bible, was famous for patience? Job never met Mark Emmert.”
Switching gears here, Todd Haley came to prominence as an offensive “genius” in Arizona when the team went to the Super Bowl. You remember that offense, right? Kurt Warner was the QB; Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Early Doucet were there to catch his throws; Edgerrin James ran the football. After that Haley hired on with the Kansas City Chiefs where the team had a dearth of talent, the offense stunk and Haley proceeded to get himself crosswise with players. After being fired in KC, he signed on with the Pittsburgh Steelers as their offensive coordinator and the Steelers offense is pretty miserable as of this morning.
Once again, one must ask if it is coaching genius or highly competent players that contributes to the success of an offense – or a team?
Finally, here is one more note from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald:
“The Fort Lauderdale Strikers’ third season began Saturday in the reconstituted NASL. The club has begun referring to its home as “historic Lockhart Stadium.” That means it’s old and needs a major upgrade.”
Burt don’t get me wrong, I love sports………