Following on my recent posts regarding the hypocrosies of college football (The Irony Bowl, and Irony Bowl II), a very nice article by Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post was brought to my attention today, On eve of BCS championship, a call for the NCAA to reform college football. Jenkins very nicely puts the burden for change squarely where it rests: on the shoulders of the University Presidents and Chancellors. The academic leaders sit in oversight of both the de facto governing body for intercollegiate athletics, the NCAA, and of their own individual athletic departments.
Jenkins presents a set of recommended changes:
1. Cut the number of scholarships per team (at 85, well above the NFL levels of 53).
2. Cap coaching salaries and imposing penalties for violation (though this will be hard, noting Pete Carroll's leap from USC just before the NCAA penalized the university for, among other things, Reggie Bush's semi-pro status)
3. Make freshmen ineligible. Right now, most programs redshirt freshmen, allowing them to learn the system and put on weight before using up their eligibility. Unfortunately, this practice also means that every football scholarship funds (though does not always graduate) one athlete every five years, where scholarships in most other sports produce a university graduate every four years.
4. Reduce the regular season from 12 games to 10 games.
5. Abolish the Bowl Championship Series (sacrilege? Fans of Boise State, TCU, and other great but small schools might disagree).
6. Toughen punishments on players. One of the great lessons of sports at all levels is individual accountability, to one's self and to the team.
In 2006, the U.S. House and Ways Committee asked the NCAA whether it still qualified for its non-profit exemption. The NCAA claimed that it remained true to its mission as being "organized and operated exclusively for educational purposes." In 2006, as it is now, this claim was looking a little threadbare.
Brad Wolverton wrote then, in the Chronicle of Higher Ed, (House Committee is Looking Into Whether Some College Sports Revenue Should be Taxed, Three College Officials Say, Chronicle of Higher Education, Mar. 10, 2006—sorry, the link is now broken), about the legal question:
Aides to the committee asked questions about whether certain revenue generated by college-sports programs and the National Collegiate Athletic Association should be treated as "unrelated business income" and taxed. According to the college officials interviewed by the committee's aides, lawmakers are concerned that big-time sports programs are evolving into commercial entertainment businesses that are only marginally connected to the tax-exempt purposes of higher education.
La plus ca change, la plus ca meme… Here we are again, only the numbers are even bigger. At what point will we acknowledge that enough money has seeped into the system to erode its mission and principles?