by Richard Vedder
Mark Emmert, president of the U. of Washington, is the new president of the NCAA. This is being heralded as a victory for reformers, maintaining the more reformist leadership started under the late Myles Brand, himself a former president. The athletic directors are being subordinated as the academics assert some leadership. This, we are told, will keep alive the greater academic orientation begun under Brand's leadership.
It sounds nice, and it is true the NCAA did move to end some of the more egregious practices prevailing in the pre-Brand era. But, I for one, am not expecting much. Attending the College Sports Research Annual Meetings in Chapel Hill last week, I was reminded how college sports is broken on both the moral/ethical/academic and financial levels.
On ethics, I heard the story of Sally Dear, the SUNY Binghamton instructor who refused to bow to athletic department pressure and pass students who failed to attend large amounts of the course. The sad thing with her story was the complicity of so-called academic leaders in the move to preserve eligibility for some students who deserved to fail.
On finances, my sidekick Matt Denhart keeps showing me stats that show that not only are college sports a drain, but they are more so at the poorer (financially and in terms of academic reputation) schools than the rich ones --there is a highly regressive intercollegiate athletics (ICA) "tax" on the generally middle to lower income students attending wannabe athletic powers --like my own Ohio University or SUNY Binghamton.
Back to Mark Emmert. If he really wants to be bold, he can use the NCAA's cartel powers to scale back the financial excesses of ICA. He could call together the presidents of Football Bowl Series schools and propose that no school in the FBS division can subsidize ICA more than two percent of core revenues or five percent of tuition revenues collected from students. The financial burden that the Eastern Michigans of the world immpose upon their students is unconsciousable. Or, he could go conference by conference, asking, for example, for the Mid American Conference to meet with him to impose a conference rule similar to above, and promising help with the NCAA in transitioning to a lower level of competitive play --perhaps a five year phaseout at the FBS level.
It won't happen, however. College presidents look at the new 14 year NCAA contract on basketball and see dollar signs in their eyes. They believe they can get their hands on enough money to makes sports financially viable, at the same time they are paying coaches 10 times what their counterparts of a generation ago made. Sports was, is, and always will be a losing proposition for most schools. Why sell your soul and integrity to keep Bubba the Alum happy? Why? Because most typical university presidents lack certain intimate body parts needed to resist pressure, and they are whores. Plain and simple.