In the unchecked proliferation of the big business of college-sports America faces a most daunting and significant challenge. Reforming this broken, debilitating system is one of the social concerns of our times, and to continue to ignore the need for change will only irrevocably worsen an already strained situation.
Given the recent transgressions in the ever-changing world of college athletics, it is more apparent now than ever that we must revise our thinking regarding the student-athlete. Everyone seems to be profiting from the athlete, while allowances to meet the basic and essential needs of student-athletes have never been met. Failure to meet these basic needs is not due to a lack of funding, but rather misplaced priorities. It appears to me that we have legislated against human dignity, which should be the most important rule for all of us to follow. It is time to replace hypocrisy with practicality.
“The NCAA as far as I know, is the most powerful potent cartel in this country and why it survives without any court challenges is beyond me,” Frank Deford said.
One of the largest impediments to change in college athletics is the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), which is at best arbitrary and capricious in its rulings. Walter Byers, former NCAA executive director for 36 years, was candid and honest when he strongly stated, “Time and circumstances have passed the entire system of intercollegiate athletics by. The management structure has become bureaucratic and irresponsible. I believe educators no longer have the right to run a big time national entertainment business, with virtual blanket exemption under the antitrust laws just because they profess a noble dedication to amateurism. Reform will not come from within. The beneficiaries of the current monopoly will not give up a good thing.”
Although there are many problems facing college athletics today, I still think there are answers. First drop the masquerade and eliminate the sham of amateur athletics. Eliminate all the rules that breed deceit hypocrisy and legislate against human dignity. Put teeth into the rules by being emphatic that any player or coach who violates major rules should be severely punished and granting immunity to players is not a punishment. Everyone must be held accountable for their actions, and immunity is no more than a bribe and a mockery of the NCAA rules and justice itself.
Only those who break the rules should be penalized. The school, innocent fans, players and coaches should not suffer the consequences of other people’s mistakes.
“You measure injustice not by the guilty who are punished but by the innocent who are victimized,” Mike Lopresti of USA Today said.
Brent Clark, a former NCAA investigator, appeared in front of a congressional hearing and told them, “I believe that the NCAA enforcement machinery allows NCAA personnel to inflict selective punishment upon institutions. Unfortunately the many fine services the NCAA renders have been overshadowed by manipulative and corrupt enforcement.”
Larry Donald in Basketball Times wrote the following regarding the NCAA: “The principle shortfall of the NCAA has always been that its number-one mission has not been to serve its constituents, but to preserve its own operation. The NCAA’s guiding philosophy is that it is not an organization concerned as much with proper enforcement of the rules as it is with proving the necessity of its own operation. When the NCAA wins an investigation, it justifies its existence.”
It is almost impossible not to eventually be accused of wrongdoing if you are involved in big-time college sports and when you are investigated by the NCAA you are guilty until proven innocent.
“No college program, including my own, could withstand a thorough NCAA investigation without taking some kind of fall,” Mike Krzyzewski said.
“The NCAA seemed determined to scrutinize Tiger and he wasn’t trying to get away with anything,” Tiger Woods father Earl said. “He was trying to do the best he could to comply with all their confusing regulations but he got nothing but grief at every turn. It drove Tiger right out of college and the schools lament that so many athletes are leaving college early. Well, wake up—the system is driving them out of college. These kids can’t wait to get away from the NCAA.”
John E. Moss, who was the chairman for the subcommittee on oversight and investigations, chaired the 1978 congressional hearing on the NCAA enforcement program that was prompted by allegations of unfairness, inequality, secrecy, and other abuses of excessive power.
“I have been writing administrative law in this House for more than a quarter of a century and I have never seen anything touching upon this kind of inequity and procedure,” Moss said. “It appears that they are far more interested in punishment than justice.”
Edmund Burke, 18th century British author and statesman, supports this theory when he said “Justice is itself the great standing policy of civil society; and any imminent departure from it under any circumstances lies under the suspicion of being no policy at all.”
I have known many good people in the NCAA office and in college athletics that desperately want to see a change because there is a tremendous value that athletics can teach, if done in the right way.
For five years beginning in September 1983, I initiated a letter writing campaign, totaling five letters, all targeting the NCAA’s 1,200 college presidents, chancellors, athletic directors, faculty representatives, head football coaches, head basketball coaches and conference commissioners of Division I schools and also to the staff of the NCAA suggesting massive reform of the NCAA.
The NCAA has now enacted 27 of my original 43 recommendations. The letter said, “Starting my 27th year in coaching, it is more apparent to me now than ever that we must revise our thinking regarding the student-athlete. It is not my desire for us to ‘coddle’ athletes but for us to become realistic regarding the inequities presently being practiced in collegiate athletics.”
Everyone seems to be profiting from the athlete, while allowances to meet the basic and essential needs of student-athletes has never been met. Failures to meet these basic needs are not due to a lack of funding but rather misplaced priorities.
There are some suggestions, which if passed into legislation, I sincerely feel would help us immensely in collegiate athletics plus draw the respect of the student-athlete who we have lost over the years due to the fact we have refused to look at the issues honestly and candidly.
Only those sports that produce in excess of expenditures should initiate this program. Also, I strongly feel we could save a large sum of money on enforcement and legal fees if this program is initiated. We can improve collegiate sports if we join together now to correct these inequities.
Please accept these suggestions in the spirit in which they are written and that is only to be fair to the student-athlete and hopefully give the athlete a chance not to rely on anyone but himself, his institution and his job for financial assistance.
I sincerely feel that a large percentage of coaches are honorable, hard-working men that want to do what is right but are saddled by a system that makes it difficult.
What’s gone wrong with collegiate athletics? It isn’t all that complex. Greed. More victories. More money. It’s just that simple and sad.
Dale Brown spent 25 years as the Louisiana State University men’s head basketball coach and is also remembered as one of the most vocal critics of the NCAA because he said it legislated against human dignity. He is former member of the United States Sports Academy’s Board of Visitors.