Anyone who really thought that the NCAA was going to emerge from its most recent Annual Meetings unscathed must have dated Lennay Kekua before she was alive and dancing images in Manti Te’O’s dreams.
It seems as if nothing the NCAA does, or has done in the past decade, has garnered any kind of consensus support. Even the noble efforts of Myles Brand to put “student” back into “student-athlete” was swallowed by some in the same fashion we used to take cod liver oil at the stern admonition of our mothers.
Perhaps it is the nature of the beast—a beast whose genesis began with President Teddy Roosevelt, and even with that, some still maintain his motives were to keep Yale from getting ahead of Harvard in sports. Yet, whatever that “nature” might be, it obviously is not seen by any two given people in the same way.
At its recent Annual Meeting, NCAA President Mark Emmert had a goal of beginning to reduce the size of the NCAA Manual. Whether or not he achieved that is yet to be seen, but for certain he and his cabal have stirred up a hornet’s nest with their changes in recruiting.
The results of those meetings were 25 proposals scheduled to take effect Aug. 1. Most of them will change the way college recruiting is conducted from its present format. The sport most significantly impacted is football, since it has the highest visibility, support and vulnerability.
After Aug. 1, there will be more coaches eligible to recruit, more phone calls to prospects, more texting to prospects, and more printed materials being sent to prospects. The regulations put in place years back, which limited such contact, were done so, in the infamous mantra of egalitarianism, to create “an even playing field.”
Hence, if a program became successful by developing an attractive recruiting brochure and another program could not afford to produce such a piece those who could not or would not make such a brochure cried “foul.” The NCAA would characteristically react with a mandate through regulation a policy which specifically stipulated the specs of recruiting materials.
As Assistant AD for Student Services at Auburn years ago, I was aghast that the “Student-Athlete Handbook,” required by the NCAA, stipulated that it could not be more than a two-color piece. Why? Because other institutions could not afford it!
This was just one example of how the NCAA Manual became the size of three volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica. There was so much micro-regulation going on that the NCAA’s “enforcement squad” was increased in size to make certain that no recruit received an improper benefit or an extra piece of bacon at breakfast. It became regulatorum ad absurdum.
Fierce rivals could not wait to make “reports” to the NCAA, either openly or surreptitiously, on each other. It made for an atmosphere clearly antithetical to the notion of the spirit of competition between respected rivals. It became ludicrous.
Along came President Emmert who saw the folly of such regulation and its effect not only on the size of the NCAA Manual, but its effect on member institutions and their desires to field successful teams. The NCAA itself began to lose credibility and what has happened with these 25 proposals may very well be the first step on a voyage which will transform the NCAA forever.
With such proposals, regardless of how some recruiting coordinators receive them, the NCAA has embarked on a mission of “compression,” for lack of a better phrase. It will be more than a compression of its manual. In my estimation, it will be a re-definition of its scope and size.
Perhaps the old NCAA model, with its three Divisions as bifurcated as the rules governing each Division, will dissolve into a more realistic model enveloping those principles idealized by President Roosevelt. The Division differences now are obviously pronounced, and each member institution has the choice of which Division it wishes to join. Now, however, with the revenues that will be realized by the impending football Bowl Championship Series (BCS), perhaps a final chapter in the evolution of the old NCAA model will be written.
We will ultimately get a preview come Aug. 1.
Dr. Arthur Ogden is the United States Sports Academy’s chair of Sports Management. He has served in education for more than 45 years in several capacities, including Dean of Academic Affairs, college football coach for 12 years and college athletics director for more than 10 years. He has taught in the Kingdom of Bahrain, Botswana and in Jamaica. You can reach Dr. Ogden at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.ussa.edu.