The NCAA is currently embroiled in a scandal over the use of athletes’ likenesses without their consent. With the NCAA facing mounting pressure to make changes, it has been suggested that the organization should move to blockchain technology to solve this issue.
The corruption in college sports examples is a question that has been asked for years. There have been many instances of corruption in the NCAA, but there are also many examples of people who believe that the NCAA can be fixed.
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Senior Writer for ESPN
- Reporter for college football
- In 2007, he began working for ESPN.com.
- Indiana University graduate
Dan Murphy is a writer who lives in New York
- The Big Ten is covered.
- In 2014, he joined ESPN.com.
- University of Notre Dame (ND) alumnus
During his first week on the job, Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff requested several of the conference’s experienced staff members who had worked with the NCAA for decades to arrange a two-hour meeting to explain how the NCAA is structured.
Two hours is an incredibly short window to unravel the complex bureaucracy that controls college athletics, even among the seasoned and well-prepared — and Kliavkoff’s crew was both. Kliavkoff, who started on July 1, soon recognized he’d need a more hands-on orientation to get through the maze he’d just entered.
“It’s so complicated,” he said. “It’s difficult because they have so many duties and do so much for college sports.”
Kliavkoff requested NCAA president Mark Emmert to schedule a meeting with him at the association’s headquarters in Indianapolis in late August so he could meet the administrative personnel and have a better understanding of what they do. The Pac-12 recruited him because of his extensive expertise managing complex industries as a senior executive at major media and entertainment firms. He couldn’t get his mind around an NCAA governance system that seemed to be on the verge of collapsing.
Kliavkoff is far from alone in scratching his head, which is why the whole company — including its perplexing, archaic decision-making procedures — is now being restructured. Power brokers in the NCAA have long emphasized the need to modernize the way college sports are managed, but any meaningful progress has been hampered by a system that is ill-equipped to implement change and is based on a fragile, mutual trust among its various stakeholders. A barrage of momentous events this summer, unlike any other in the NCAA’s 115-year existence, further shattered that faith, but it also pushed college sports officials to face an urgent need to adapt.
• The College Football Playoff stated in June that it would want to extend the current four-team structure to twelve teams.
• The United States Supreme Court unanimously affirmed a ruling that provides for an incremental increase in how college athletes can be compensated and opens the door for future legal challenges that could deal a much more significant blow to the NCAA’s current business model three days after the CFP management committee met to discuss the new format.
• The NCAA announced the next week, on June 30, that it was lifting its long-held ban on athletes earning money from their names, pictures, and likenesses, just one day before numerous state laws went into effect that would have rendered such regulations unlawful.
• By the end of July, Oklahoma and Texas had dropped the bombshell that they were leaving the Big 12 for the SEC, thus establishing the SEC as the first 16-team superconference.
• While the Big 12 accelerated its growth ambitions, the Pac-12, Big Ten, and ACC formed an alliance in August to help stabilize their conferences and the landscape as a whole.
These significant changes happened while decision-makers at colleges and universities throughout the nation were already grappling with the effect of the COVID-19 epidemic on the higher education sector.
“Right now, being a university president is like receiving a 1,000-piece jigsaw on your doorstep every morning, and then the following morning you get a new 1,000-piece puzzle,” West Virginia University president Gordon Gee said during a discussion regarding playoff expansion on June 22 in Dallas. “I’ve been the president of a university for 41 years. I’ve never had to deal with a pandemic, and I’ve never had to deal with all of the confusion in college sports. I’ve never dealt with all of the mental health problems that others face. Our kids are under a lot of pressure. The country’s political structure gets flipped on its head. We’re in the midst of a hurricane as a university president. We’re capturing javelins and have no idea where they came from.”
The NCAA’s seams have blown wide open after years of forcing itself into a garment that hasn’t fit correctly in a generation, amid an ever-present question about who is directing the organization of 1,102 institutions that produces billions of dollars each year.
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey told ESPN, “I believe that question highlights part of the issue.” “Because our decision-making structure is so varied and dispersed, it’s difficult to point to a single entity that will fix this.”
Change will require collaboration and a common vision. There are two organizations that have the ability to bring the NCAA’s varied membership together. Both have significant challenges if they are to lead the way to a new working order.
Emmert and his Indianapolis team are in part responsible for bringing member schools together. Their method, on the other hand, is complicated and ineffectual. They can’t make choices for college athletics on their own; instead, they must guide change via a complicated network of member-led committees and boards. Emmert convened a 28-member group last summer, including representatives from all three divisions, to rethink the organization’s basic mission. It seemed doomed to fall flat like many reform-minded committees that have failed to bring about meaningful change in the past, according to many in the college athletics world who have already lost confidence in their president and the institution he supervises.
“Right now, no,” Emmert replied when asked by ESPN in August whether he had the power to urge NCAA members in a different direction.
“I’d love to be in a position where Mark Emmert can accomplish something like that on his own,” he added. “But, you know, that’s nonsense,” says the narrator.
The Power 5 commissioners are the other group with a chance to take over. Because of their influence over the most profitable parts of the business, those five individuals and the 65 institutions they represent have progressively defined the NCAA’s reality in the twenty-first century. By sheer force of will, Kliavkoff, Sankey, and their three colleagues would drag the rest of the association along with them if they all agreed on how the future should appear. The summer’s turmoil, on the other hand, wreaked havoc on those schools’ already shattered trust and desire to collaborate.
Commissioner Bob Bowlsby of the Big 12 didn’t say confidence in the business is at an all-time low, but he did say it’s “the lowest level I’ve seen.”
As a result, the NCAA finds itself at an existential crossroads with no obvious path forward.
The NCAA’s summer of upheaval and distrust has been seen firsthand by Bob Bowlsby (far left) and Mark Emmert (near left). Susan Walsh/Associated Press
Who can I put my faith in? ‘Myself’
The atmosphere was upbeat in late June when the ten FBS commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick arrived at the Hyatt Regency DFW International Airport to meet with the 11 presidents and chancellors who have the ability to alter the College Football Playoff.
It was the commissioners’ second big playoff meeting in less than a week, and there seemed to be solid support for expanding the field to 12 teams, paving the way for a more inclusive field that fans and analysts had been yearning for since the four-team system was established in 2014.
Sankey, Bowlsby, Mountain West Conference commissioner Craig Thompson, and Swarbrick collaborated on the 12-team concept under discussion for almost two years as members of a CFP panel.
Because all commissioners were managing their various leagues through the continuing epidemic at the same time — an unusual difficulty that delayed their work on the postseason due to their inability to meet in person — the longstanding colleagues had already been talking more than normal. The proposal was published on June 10, and the Dallas meeting was another crucial step in the approval process.
College sports was shaken by the Supreme Court’s NCAA v. Alston ruling even before everyone’s planes had arrived.
On June 21, the day before the CFP meeting, Bowlsby was traveling from his home to the conference headquarters in Irving, Texas, when the Supreme Court of the United States unanimously upheld a decision that altered the way college athletes may be paid.
Bowlsby took the first exit he saw and stopped into the parking lot of a convenience store to read what he could. He was already reading through the league’s attorneys’ correspondence. Bowlsby’s Big Ten colleague Kevin Warren, who has a legal background, printed a copy of the decision and started analyzing it with a highlighter and red ink.
The Supreme Court’s ruling quickly destroyed the legal grounds that had been employed for decades to defend the association’s defining concept of amateurism. The NCAA had previously been given forbearance by the Supreme Court to establish sweeping regulations limiting what colleges might offer to their players — an arrangement that several justices pointed out would be unlawful in any other American business — but that was no longer the case. When combined with the state’s name, the message was clear: image and likeness laws will take effect in less than 10 days. The moment for putting off amateurism’s difficulties has passed. Change was on the way, and it was up to these leaders to decide whether they would actively shape the future or allow external forces to determine their destiny.
When the decision was made, MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher, who was traveling from Ohio to Dallas to join everyone for the most important playoff meeting since the BCS ended, was on a Southwest aircraft.
“I have internet access, so I’m watching everything unfold,” Steinbrecher said. “I’m thinking to myself, ‘Oh boy, here we go.’”
While everyone knew that the NCAA was at a critical juncture in its history, no one predicted that a month later, Sankey would emerge as a key player in one of college athletics’ best-kept secrets. His league was about to get two of the largest brand-name institutions in college football, as well as a fresh round of realignment uncertainty. When university officials from Texas and Oklahoma contacted the SEC about membership, it’s unclear when they did so, and Sankey refused to give details, saying it’s up to Texas and OU to discuss the chronology. ESPN asked both colleges for further information, but they refused.
For months, Bowlsby and the rest of the SEC were unaware of the SEC’s talks with OU and Texas, according to public statements. Because of the overlap, several questioned Sankey’s capacity to work objectively on a playoff format when his league was on the verge of growth.
Sankey told ESPN, “That intermingles problems.” “Those are two different worlds. One is that the CFP said in January 2019 that the format will be reviewed on a regular basis. A subcommittee was formed well before any discussions regarding a possible membership change…. Things definitely picked up this summer, as I’ve said.”
The Houston Chronicle reported on July 21 — nearly precisely one month after the CFP’s board of managers granted the commissioners the green light to seek input on a 12-team playoff — that Oklahoma and Texas were planning to depart the Big 12.
In its aftermath, the move left a searing feeling of betrayal and rage. Although distrust has always existed in college sports, it reached new heights last summer when the SEC became the first 16-team superconference in the sport.
Following the news, Bowlsby accused ESPN of pushing other conferences to steal from the league in order for Texas and Oklahoma to join the SEC faster and without having to pay a large buyout.
He issued ESPN a cease-and-desist letter, saying that the Big 12 had discovered that ESPN had taken steps “to not only damage the Big 12 Conference but also to benefit ESPN financially.”
“The allegations in the letter have no validity,” ESPN replied in a statement.
The departure of Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC has prompted a new wave of suspicion in NCAA circles. Getty Images/William Purnell/Icon Sportswire
Kliavkoff, who is still new to the five-man committee, expressed his concerns to The Athletic, stating there was “some worry about the way the 12-team proposal was structured, with a restricted number of individuals in the meeting and poor information amongst the people who were in the room.” “The appropriate procedure is for everyone with a say to have a say, and everyone to operate with the same knowledge.”
Sankey recounted to Kliavkoff how Oklahoma and Texas contacted the SEC about joining in late August, according to Kliavkoff.
Kliavkoff added, “Greg has described how this occurred, and I trust him.” “I agree with his assertion that if Texas and Oklahoma had contacted one of the other Power 5 conferences, we would have answered and behaved in the same manner as he did.”
“Should Greg have approached Bob in the corridor at one of our many meetings at the Dallas DFW Hyatt and said, ‘Hey, just so you know, Oklahoma and Texas contacted me?’” Thompson remarked. “That’s not going to happen.”
“Is Greg expected to have daily news conferences, or emails — which are subject to FOIA [public records laws] — and everything else documenting what he’s doing, who he’s doing it with, who he talked to, and what’s going on and what the next steps are?” Thompson remarked. “No, you keep those things to the circle that will eventually decide yes or no on whether or not to ask Oklahoma and Texas to join the league.”
There was “no connection” between Sankey’s involvement in the CFP working group and the SEC expansion, according to one high-ranking SEC institution administrator engaged in the expansion talks.
Nonetheless, Texas and Oklahoma’s choice to join a new conference has strained ties inside the Big 12 and beyond.
Bowlsby told ESPN on Sept. 3 that he trusts “himself” when asked who he trusts.
Meanwhile, on ESPN’s Paul Finebaum Show, American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco fired out at Bowlsby, as media sources claimed the Big 12 was speeding up its plans to add UCF, Houston, Cincinnati, and BYU.
“We were unjustly accused, and ESPN has been unfairly accused of attempting to ruin the Big 12,” Aresco told Finebaum. “It’s ludicrous… I’m not sure what’s going on right now.”
Sankey and Bowlsby are still “excellent friends” and “speak often,” according to Bowlsby, but “it’s not a nice thing to go through.”
Now it’s Aresco’s time to “walk through” it, with Big 12 presidents on the verge of accepting AAC schools UCF, Houston, and Cincinnati, as well as BYU, for membership, only weeks before the commissioners gather near the Big Ten headquarters in Rosemont, Illinois, on Sept. 28 to review the 12-team structure.
“I believe there is a great deal of dissatisfaction and mistrust in the business,” Thompson remarked. “You may blame and point fingers. In the end, Texas and Oklahoma were interested in investigating a new approach for themselves. Is it the SEC’s fault that the phone was answered? Is it the responsibility of Oklahoma and Texas for failing to inform the other eight members that they are looking around?
“This narrative has been written for 25 years,” he added. “Is this a well-built structure? The answer is a resounding nay.”
If the CFP is waiting for stability to alter [the playoff system], it “may be waiting for a long time,” said to Sun Belt commissioner Keith Gill.
“We thought there was stability a month ago and we knew where everyone was going to be,” Gill said following the OU and Texas announcements. “Do we ever find out? That is the actual question. I’m not sure whether we’re waiting for some kind of indication that everything is going to be OK and everything is calm on the Western Front.”
Many decision-makers believe that the NCAA’s authority will eventually be shifted to the individual leagues and their commissioners. It’s one of the reasons why the announcement that Oklahoma and Texas will join the SEC, bolstering what is already the richest and most powerful conference, caused such concern.
Gene Smith, the athletic director of Ohio State, sees a college environment that has to be “healed and addressed.” AP Images/JP Waldron/CSM
The SEC’s growth occurred at a time when some of college athletics’ most prominent players were getting tired of one other. During his 16-plus years as the head of one of the country’s wealthiest and most powerful athletic departments, Gene Smith has been an active member of the NCAA’s policy-making body. In recent years, he has seen a loss of collegiality, he added.
“I believe there is a current lack of trust that has to be healed and addressed,” Smith said. “We don’t speak to one other as often as we used to.”
Previously, the various conferences were able to strike a balance between competitiveness and collaboration by depending on the common history of leaders who had spent their whole careers working together. Three of the five Power 5 commissioners have stepped down in the last two years, leaving those organizations to rediscover their feet under new leadership. Face-to-face interactions at the regular schedule of conventions and meetings that bring many athletic directors and other NCAA practitioners together three or four times a year frequently result in new connections being formed. These have lately vanished as a result of COVID.
According to Smith, the epidemic has had an impact on the kind of casual contacts that may generate momentum for change and the relationships that such encounters foster. He claims that Zoom calls aren’t the same.
“You could have seven or eight ADs over in a corner, sipping Diet Cokes and discussing a problem, and you come up with a solution,” Smith said. “But it’s all gone now. It’s just gone. It’s all part of the trust issue.”
Despite not being able to meet in person in 2020, the commissioners gathered weekly, if not more often, via Zoom to exchange notes on COVID-19 procedures, and those weekly sessions have continued. They have been “awkward” since the news of SEC expansion and the creation of the alliance of the ACC, Big Ten, and Pac-12, according to one person on the call.
They will continue as well.
“”They’ve been honest and necessary,” ACC commissioner Jim Phillips said, “and we’ve had difficult discussions, but we’re going ahead and trying to work together under the circumstances.” There’s reason to be optimistic. We’ve all made a promise to each other that we’ll try to sort things out. These things take time, but we need to reclaim some of the synergy that we may have lost, and I’m sure we’ll be able to do so.”
“We’ll work together on it because that’s something we have to do,” he added. “There are some strained relationships, but I believe we all recognize that we don’t need to demonstrate unity for the sake of unity; we need to show unity because we have common concerns and problems, and we should strive to find shared answers.”
Greg Sankey, the SEC commissioner, said that he does not have “glowing evaluations” of the NCAA at this time. Mark Humphrey/Associated Press
‘I have a low bar set for myself.’
Between the Supreme Court’s decision and Oklahoma and Texas’ bombshell announcement — the days were too muddled to remember precisely when — NCAA president Emmert decided it was time for some frank Zoom conversations of his own. To assess the business, the lifetime higher education administrator convened a virtual meeting of a small, informal “kitchen cabinet” of his closest advisors.
The group immediately agreed on the idea that we needed to restart from the beginning, according to Emmert. “Revisit what the fundamental concepts of college athletics are.”
The formation of a committee was the first step towards their new beginning. The NCAA’s board of governors chose 28 people, the majority of whom have extensive experience in the complicated realm of NCAA administration, to lead a Constitutional Convention that would design a new path ahead. Their goal is not to change regulations just yet, but to see what common ground (if any) still remains among the NCAA’s more than 1,100 varied member institutions. They plan to provide their first report in November.
The statement showed that Emmert and his team were aware of the severity of the situation, but it was greeted with suspicion. Even some of the 28 people who made up the team questioned if they would be able to generate any real-world outcomes.
“My capacity to answer that is a little restricted because it’s hard to comprehend the emphasis of this constitutional endeavor,” Sankey said on Sunday when asked whether he believes any major change would occur in November.
“Following the bouncing ball of the NCAA’s constitutional examination has been a little tough,” he added. “It’s also difficult to grasp the whole picture. It’s a 43-page report… There are certain areas where I believe we need more clarity in terms of decision-making…. We must realize that we are placing 350 or more Division I schools and institutions into a decision-making mechanism and expecting acceptable outcomes. Not to add the concerns I’ve raised in the past about the difficulty to bring serious enforcement and violations cases to a quick and equitable resolution. You hope that some effort will be made to solve those problems, but I haven’t seen the structure that outlines how that would happen other than the calling of this review, and I have low hopes for November. That’s a little early, in my opinion.”
In 2018, a committee chaired by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice failed to make significant changes to the NCAA’s slow enforcement procedure. After two years of research and recommendations to regulate the market for collegiate athlete name, image, and likeness (NIL) agreements, an 11th-hour decision to do the bare least and hope for legislative involvement was made this summer.
Thompson, the commissioner of the Mountain West Conference, believes there is little hope that another committee will be able to address the issues. He remembered a discussion with one of his coworkers, who said: “We haven’t resolved NIL in a few years, and now we’re supposed to have a new governance structure in 90 days? It doesn’t appear to make sense.”
Warren, who was named the Big Ten’s top executive in June 2019, expressed worry that the group won’t have enough time to create a “concrete action plan” rather than “esoteric and theoretical” talking points. Warren, like his West Coast colleague George Kliavkoff, said he’d be pleased if the committee could give a better response to the basic issue of what the NCAA does by November.
“I believe that gaining clarification would be a significant step forward for us.” Warren stated his opinion. “How do they see themselves?” says the narrator.
Warren’s inquiry begins to uncover a fundamental problem and impediment to development by using the words “us” and “them.” Before reaching an agreement on the NCAA’s what and why, Emmert believes it’s critical for everyone to agree on who makes up the NCAA.
In some minds, the four letters stand in for Emmert’s Indianapolis staff, which is in charge of the organization’s rules. However, Emmert is eager to point out that his organization does not create or even have a vote on the rules that regulate collegiate athletics. Through a wide type of representative democracy, the member schools are accountable for deciding on the regulations. While Emmert acknowledges that it is part of his job (for which he is paid almost $3 million per year) to attempt to create consensus and steer the schools in the best interests of all college sports, he claims that a wide number of people make up the NCAA’s “who.”
In principle, members’ views and ideas should trickle up to the NCAA’s board of governors, which is made up of around a dozen people, mainly university presidents and chancellors, who vote on any changes to the NCAA’s rules. University presidents have the ultimate word on the College Football Playoff and conference realignment choices, in addition to filling the majority of the board of governors seats.
Many leaders at higher-profile schools have lost faith in the board of governors’ effectiveness for a variety of reasons. One Power 5 athletic director questioned if university presidents are sufficiently knowledgeable about college athletics to make sound judgments on behalf of the organizations they are meant to represent.
“We’ve given them all this authority, and most of them probably haven’t even glanced at the agenda before they fly in for a meeting,” the insider added. “They make their choices, fly back out, and then say, ‘Oh, here are the decisions we’ve made.’”
Sankey thinks that university presidents should have a role in NCAA governance in the future, but that the board has to be more open if it wants to include meaningful input from others in its decision-making process. Sankey, for example, claimed the SEC office had “no significant prior warning” that the board of governors was meeting in March to determine whether or not to remove participants from NCAA games as a COVID safety precaution.
Sankey said, “We had to find out about it, for some individuals through social media, literally as we had opened doors and were dealing with public health officials.” “That’s just one example of how the whole decision-making structure and method must be significantly changed in order to acknowledge the critical role that members and member conferences play in contemporary collegiate sports.”
Part of the issue, according to Emmert, is that members attempt to depend on the NCAA to address too many problems that might be handled at the conference or institution level. He claims that schools often “push problems up to the national level for convenience, attractiveness, and not having to deal with difficulties.”
“There are a number of things in place at the national level right now because, to be honest, colleges don’t trust one other, or more correctly, athletic departments don’t trust each other. They want a national organization to look over the shoulders of the other institutions and say things like, “Those people are attempting to get a competitive edge by doing something we don’t agree with.”” Emmert remarked. “Okay, that’s OK. But how much of it should be a national regulation? How much of it must be in place before college sports may be played? Or how much of it is just that you all need to come together and agree on what you’re going to accomplish at your conference level?”
The Constitutional Convention group formed this summer is meant to be the first step in addressing many of these problems, but the path to change is far from smooth. Even if the committee is successful in simplifying the NCAA’s constitution, which Bob Bowlsby described as “43 pages of esoteric concepts and redundancies,” the job ahead is just the tip of the iceberg.
“Perhaps you can finish that job by November and reduce it to five pages,” Bowlsby said. “However, there are still 400 pages of ordinances to alter, as well as a lot of architecture.”
Bowlsby has “not a lot of faith” in the convention to bring about the changes that college athletics need. Emmert himself admits that the organization’s upcoming transformation is beyond its comfort zone.
“When you attempt to make gradual change, this is a framework that works very well,” he added. “However, it’s not a framework that works well when you’re trying to make a significant change.”
Before the NCAA’s constitutional meeting this fall, Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff is focused on learning more about the organization’s present structure. AP Marcio Jose Sanchez/Flickr
‘Is that something we can do?’
In late August, the constitutional committee issued an electronic poll with approximately 25 questions to three or four individuals on each school in each of the three college sports divisions. Phillips of the ACC, who is one of three commissioners on the 28-member group, estimates that it was distributed to tens of thousands of individuals.
Standards for athlete eligibility, pay and benefits, national championships, and institutional assistance were among the issues discussed.
Do you agree with me? Do you agree wholeheartedly? Disagree? Disagree vehemently?
There were other open text areas where you could provide more comprehensive comments. The deadline for responses was September 1st.
When asked whether he felt it touched on the appropriate subjects, Bowlsby replied, “I thought it was pretty shallow.” The questions focused on the values that characterize college athletics, with the goal of determining whether they should be important to the NCAA’s future. The goal was to find the most inextricable common denominators of the college sports experience and utilize them to determine the NCAA’s role in safeguarding those things in the future.
The NCAA now has three primary responsibilities: establishing regulations, enforcing rules, and arranging national championships. The organization has struggled in all three of these areas in recent years.
The NCAA basketball playoffs, the sport’s most lucrative and high-profile championship stage, were tarnished by blatant gender inequalities this past year. The College Football Playoff’s planned expansion also serves as a reminder that the national organization does not control (or benefit from) the sport’s biggest and most important national title. Despite two years of research and suggestions, the organization failed to adopt significant regulations for new name, image, and likeness requirements, and offered no direction to schools and conferences deciding whether to play during the epidemic last academic year. And, despite a new method that was intended to speed up the process, enforcement judgments in high-profile instances have lingered for years.
Sankey said he had “a lot of issues about what’s occurred around the NCAA in the past few years — a lot of problems” when asked what he believes the NCAA does well.
No, I asked you what you believe it’s excellent at, said another ESPN reporter.
“Yeah, well, I don’t have great ratings right now,” he said. “Many parts of the college sports governing body’s job, I believe, might be improved. Let’s begin with championships. For all of us, it has always been a standout event, and those expectations were not fulfilled earlier this year. Last year, while we were dealing with the COVID situation, we were all making judgments in real time, and I believe the NCAA followed suit. So it’s difficult to assess how things are progressing. I believe there are some great individuals engaged, but I believe we have a system that requires more than a 90-day constitutional review to completely fix itself in order to offer the sort of excellent assistance we want to see for future generations of young people.”
Emmert said that there are certain things he wishes he could do differently in the last several years. He said he takes responsibility for some of the problems, but he also wants members to take ownership of them.
“It’s not enough for them to hurl rocks,” Emmert added. “Rather of simply stating, ‘Well, this is broken and it stinks, therefore I’m angry,’ they must actively participate in solutions.”
The constitutional committee and its survey are an effort to go beyond rock-throwing, and those who are working on it think they can succeed. Sandy Barbour, the athletic director at Penn State and a member of the group, told ESPN that she had “great confidence” in the committee’s ability to succeed.
“I don’t pretend to believe that everyone will agree and that everything will be a ‘Kumbaya’ moment,” she added, “but whatever we come up with will definitely have some majority, some agreement behind it.”
Others question whether there is still any common ground among the many schools and sports that are crammed under the same umbrella. Some, like Ohio State’s Smith, have proposed that separate regulating organizations be established for different sports so that football, field hockey, and tennis don’t all have the same problems. Others question whether the disparity in resources between institutions, especially within Division I (much alone the bottom two divisions), has become insurmountable.
“We always come back to that magical canopy, that there are 350 [Division I] institutions, and by God, Maryland Baltimore County can defeat Virginia if they’re given a chance,” said Thompson, who has served as the Mountain West’s commissioner for 35 years. “True. They were successful. They won the game, but does it place them in the same operational category as far as governance structure is concerned?
He replied, “We’ll see what this committee comes up with.” “Not to cast aspersions on the committee, but it is divided into three divisions: I, II, and III. Those are two totally distinct structures. My argument is that Division I is unique in and of itself. Who is the most appropriate structure? You have completely different perspectives when you have [Penn State athletic director] Sandy Barbour and a commissioner and an AD from Division III.”
Even yet, the urge to host national championships persists. And, in order to run them properly, the schools will need a body that can ensure that everyone vying for those titles is on an equal footing. Someone else will have to play that position if Emmert’s staff in Indianapolis isn’t leading members to some kind of accord.
“I don’t believe the NCAA is dead,” said Notre Dame’s Swarbrick. “To conduct great championships, you still need an entity. You’ll still need some kind of enforcement mechanism, whether it’s them or not. I believe that national functions may still be performed, but not on the size that the NCAA has grown into since Walter Byers.”
While the finest brains in college athletics consider the broad picture of their future, the financial side of their operation will not be idle. The Big 12 presidents and chancellors are anticipated to have the eight votes required to join UCF, Houston, Cincinnati, and BYU to their league by the end of this week. The American Athletic Conference, which is home to three of the four Big 12 targets, will certainly tip over additional dominoes as a result of this move, which was pushed by the departures of Texas and Oklahoma.
According to Aresco of the AAC, the NCAA’s continuing musical chairs makes him doubtful that it will be able to address many of its issues.
“Realignment, period,” he added, “leads to distrust.” “It’s been going on for a long time. It’s not always the greatest strategy to go for the last dollar. Other conferences were devoured by conferences. A domino effect has occurred, which has been disastrous. Everyone is looking out for their own interests.”
Realignment is as much a part of collegiate sports as the game-day traditions that make each campus’s autumn Saturdays unique. In a competitive economy, conference commissioners must act in the best interests of their institutions. At the same time, without a strong central figure looking out for the industry’s general well-being, the same leaders are accountable for not ruining all of college athletics’ potential beneficial effects. For more than a century, the member-led NCAA has been torn between the tensions of competitiveness and collaboration. And the balance has never felt more precarious as it does right now.
“This is where everyone, all of us, must come forward and put our differences aside for the greater good, and that will be a key issue as we go ahead: Can we do that?” said ACC commissioner Phillips. “We must do so, and I am sure that we will succeed. Because it will not be accomplished by a single individual; it will be accomplished by all of us working together to shape whatever this new age of college sports will be.”
The college sports power brokers don’t agree on much, but there are at least three places to start looking for common ground: The present system, they think, is ineffective. They think that saving it will need a collaborative effort. They think the company and the possibilities it provides for student-athletes are valuable assets. Will it suffice?
The NCAA has been plagued by corruption in college sports recruiting for years. The current culture of mistrust has led to many lawsuits, and the NCAA is looking to create a new system that will allow them to keep up with the times.
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