Over the last several years, fans of college sports have been inundated with numerous scandals involving some of the biggest sport powerhouses in the NCAA. With the most recent (and without question the most disturbing) scandal involving Penn State University, is it time for a new governing body in college athletics?
At this point, I think it is fair to say the NCAA is an obsolete, antiquated figurehead. Their primary concern is revenue streams. Most of their day to day work is involved in TV contracts, sponsorship deals and self promotion. The fact is their member institutions are running amuck and a blind eye is turned to it until the proverbial shit hits the fan. A governing body that does not govern is clearly in need of a reform.
So how do we fix the problem? Destroy the whole system. A new NCAA needs to be put in place and a new sheriff put in charge. Here is how I would break it down:
Elect or appoint a Czar of College Sports.[i] His job will be overseeing a group of subcommittees that enforce several areas of NCAA. His rulings should be strict and violations should come with severe penalties. Make no mistake about this, college athletics is a business. It needs to now be run as a business that has lost direction. Hire someone from outside of the NCAA to run it. Consideration to someone like Roger Goodell (who rules with an iron fist) should be taken, but I would look more at people in the business world. Hire a consulting firm that specializes in fixing corporate turmoil to help find the right candidate.
Under the czar’s executive branch would be sub-committees with focus limited to one of the following areas:
Marketing & Media
These are the main areas the NCAA needs to focus on to bring respectability – and more importantly – control, back to the administration of college athletics. The recruiting department would be in charge of making sure all colleges comply with the standards and rules in place for recruiting high school players as well as investigate any infractions by boosters or administration. Move the NCAA clearing house[ii] under their jurisdiction as well.
Institutional control is one area that could be very important because of the scope of its responsibility. This committee would be responsible for making sure that each university is actually in control of its staff, boosters, athletes and fans. They would be responsible for investigating ANY AND ALL situations that would arise on the institutional level including accusations of impropriety, recruiting violations, grade tampering, etc. They would be more of an investigative branch than anything, often times sending the case to another committee for final resolution. A branch like this may have been able to prevent the continuation of theSanduskyscandal if they had been in existence. When rumors begin to spread (as they initially did inState Collegecirca 1998) this committee would be there. Imagine all the trauma and tragedy that could have been prevented with a governing body that was proactive.
Competition is simple in and of it self. As long as the competitive balance is kept, this committee will be very stable and largely dormant. Their biggest concern up front would obviously be the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) and how to properly determine the Football National Champion. Title IX[iii] should also be put under their umbrella as it pertains to equality in the availability of competitive sports.
Marketing will likely not change. The NCAA markets itself very well. They can continue as is, just under a new corporate structure. That goes for media as well. Their partnership with the networks in covering their sports is excellent. There really are few complaints (if any) that the general population has on the availability of their favorite teams. Media’s main focus should be extending coverage to the Internet. It would be the next logical step. Availability of smaller schools or those that do not draw as big of a TV rating on a streaming service would be a phenomenal step.
Academics are a tricky one. While the NCAA is definitely a business, we must remember that the competitors are student athletes. Graduation rates should be emphasized and penalties for low graduation rates amongst student athletes should be administered. Currently there is just a stern look and slap at the wrist for low graduation rates. Under this a new world order of college athletics programs, those that fall below an unacceptable graduation rate would be put on probation. If in the next four year period it does not improve to the standard, they will be barred from post season competition for the next four year period. Young men and women go to college first and foremost to prepare for a future beyond the academic world and to play sports second. This has been forgotten and should be emphasized again.
Finally, there would be a jury that determines the penalty for infractions. This jury would consist of the chairs of each of these sub-committees and the czar of college sports. Penalties should be severe. The universities, boosters and athletes have run amuck for too long. It’s like having a child who steals something. If you scold them, send them to their room without dinner and say “don’t do it again,” chances are they will do it again. On the contrary, if you give them a good beating[iv], they will not forget the pain that comes with breaking the rules. Do not be afraid to levee the death penalty against a program that is a problem. Make the punishment just, but substantial enough to be a constant reminder to stay the course.
These all sound severe, but at this point something needs to be done. When it gets to a point that children are being harmed, drastic changes needs to be taken. Sometimes it takes death for rebirth to be possible and right now the NCAA has to die.
[i] Yes, his title will be “Czar.” He needs near dictator-like control and commissioner or president does not strike the fear necessary for this position.
[ii] The NCAA Clearing House is a department that is responsible for making sure all incoming students are academically eligible to play intercollegiate athletics.
[iii] I could probably write an entire article about how Title IX has had just as much of a negative effect on athletics as positive. Title IX was a government mandate saying any government institution (including schools) that receive government funding must give equal money to extra curricular activities for both men and women. The thought process was right, the execution wrong.
[iv] Guy Manningham does not condone beating your kids (no matter how much the little punk deserves it, because he is a smart mouth just like his mother).
Brian J. Glynn is a former producer with ESPN Radio, an avid college athletics fan and aspiring czar.