By Jess Nicholas, TideFans.com Editor-In-Chief
July 26, 2013
Rare is the occasion when the NCAA gets something completely right, so NCAA president Mark Emmert deserves congratulations for astutely realizing the light he sees in the NCAA’s tunnel of torpidity is that of an oncoming train.
We’ve discussed the whims of the NCAA here before on several occasions – about how an organization whose leaders consider themselves bluebloods, not just in terms of prestige, but also in how inbred its faults happen to be.
For about the last 30 years, which is about the time college football went from being a major sport to a really major sport, the NCAA’s governance has been spotty, capricious and devoid of logic. Student-athletes are still punished for things like washing their car with a hose attached to an athletic department-owned complex. Meanwhile, the NCAA’s investigative staff mishandles more major cases and potential major cases than it gets right.
After twice being out of bounds with how it handled investigations at Alabama, and getting little more than a minor rebuke from Alabama officials, the organization may finally have met its match in the University of Miami, which unboxed all its guns in response to a case it claims was mishandled to the point of corruption.
On top of these concerns, presidents at the largest Division-I schools seem to finally have had enough with the unpredictability and overstacked layers of bureaucracy.
“We all have a sense that transformative change is going to have to happen,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby was quoted as saying in an Indianapolis Star article outlining Emmert’s plans to shepherd a different course in Division-I.
NCAA presidents have long been regarded in two ways when it came to large-scale collegiate athletics: money-hungry, and prestige-conscious. For decades, the latter dominated the former, as changes in the way practice time was allotted, budgets were made and rules were written skewed towards lessening the image of athletes (particularly football players) as more athletes than students. But that was until state governments tightened the purse strings on general funding budgets, and presidents noted the insane amounts of money being passed over the table by television networks eager to televise anything they could focus their cameras upon.
Emmert has called a meeting for next Jan. 16 and 17, where the whole of Division-I administrators will gather to discuss how to fix a structure that simply no longer works.
He didn’t outline specific platform items, but count on them being drastic. Comments from Big 12 Conference officials this month have signaled that if the biggest of the big don’t get their way, the five largest conferences — and perhaps others — might completely divorce themselves from the NCAA altogether.
If you’re looking for predictions, here’s a few:
- Five conferences of 16 teams each completely breaking away from the NCAA, or at the very least forming “Division Zero” or the like, where the smaller schools have no say in matters that affect large-budget universities.
- A complete re-write of the rulebook, with possibly the outright elimination of secondary violations. A prospect who receives a recruiting brochure in the mail a day early will no longer trigger a march of Inspector Clouseaus from Indianapolis.
- An increase in the number of scholarship roster slots, five full years of playing eligibility and lifetime scholarships for athletes who want to return to campus to finish degrees.
- No revenue sharing of bowl or playoff money with smaller schools.
- And the big one – a loosening of what the term “scholarship” currently means, to include living expenses on top of room, board, tuition and books.
With any good comes some bad, however, and the worrisome truth here is that money and power invariably corrupts. While a rewrite of NCAA rules is 30 years beyond the point of necessary already, schools in a new “Division Zero” would no doubt want to protect their investments. In other words, if you think some schools go to great lengths now to cover up and litigate their way out of potential infractions cases, just wait until the haves completely separate themselves from the have nots.
Emmert would do well to exert whatever influence he has left to ensure this circus doesn’t devolve into an outright freak show. Because change is coming. Finally, it’s coming.
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