Much of the media focuses on the negative side of things and that certainly is the case for colleges who receive NCAA sanctions. It is USC’s turn this time, but 150 other Division I colleges have received NCAA sanctions for major infractions.
Rather than focus on the negative, this article focuses on positive actions that could make college sports and the NCAA better. If the suggestions are implemented, it would create a win-win situation for all.
According to the NCAA Legislative Services database, the NCAA has issued 237 major infraction cases with penalties levied on 151 Division I colleges and one entire conference through June 18, 2010.
Many colleges received multiple separate infraction cases and related penalties. Often it is the student athletes who had nothing to do with the infractions who suffer the most.
The fact that most Division I colleges have been penalized by the NCAA indicates a systemic problem, but the root cause has never been identified and addressed.
Furthermore, sports marketers are not regulated by the NCAA, and the colleges have no control over them. Yet the NCAA holds the colleges responsible if sports marketers violate the NCAA rules with their athletes.
These problems must be addressed by the NCAA and its member colleges instead of ignoring them and continuing to penalize the colleges and their athletes.
In my opinion, the root cause of the NCAA systemic problem is the hypocrisy of the NCAA itself. The NCAA's Principle of Amateurism states that participation in intercollegiate athletics should be "motivated primarily by education and by the physical, mental, and social benefits to be derived."
However, one of the primary objectives of the NCAA is to maximize money for itself and member colleges. This has been done at the expense of the student athletes, without whom none of this money would be generated. The NCAA uses its archaic Principle of Amateurism to ensure that student athletes do not receive proper compensation for their services and the resultant income generated.
College football and basketball are the “minor leagues” for the NFL and NBA, and top players select their colleges to enhance their chances for multimillion-dollar pro contracts. The NCAA projects revenues of $710M in its 2009-2010 budget from college athletics, and the colleges receive many times this amount in total.
Alumni also donate to the general fund, and this increases significantly (often many times the sports revenue) when their college football or basketball team does well. This additional income benefits all students.
When you examine the NCAA budget over recent years, you find that the NCAA is not only spending a whopping $29M per year on administrative costs, but pockets even larger sums each year in growing net assets.
For example, the 2009 NCAA report (page 52) shows $397M in net assets with a $47M increase that year alone. There is a $38M “contingency” in the 2009-2010 budget, and it will likely become an increase in net assets. Why does the NCAA need to grow their net assets at that rate, or at all? And why does the NCAA need a $29M administrative budget?
Yet the athletes, especially the best ones, get only a college scholarship. They are held captive by the NCAA system in football and basketball (due primarily to the big-time television dollars) and not allowed to go pro until different times depending on the sport.
It is impractical for them to have a job during the school year due to the demands of their sports and academics. Yet, their scholarship does not cover an average of $3,000 per year for education related expenses according to an Ithaca College study. This puts low income athletes in a very difficult situation so it is no wonder most of the violations are commited by them.
Only the sports that do not generate big television dollars for the NCAA allow athletes to skip college or become professional any time they want, so this shows the NCAA only cares about maximizing money for itself and member colleges.
The Olympics figured this situation out a long time ago and adjusted "amateurism" to reflect sharing the big money available with the athletes or allowing them to receive money from other sources. The NCAA does not need to do things the same as the Olympics, but it is a model for ideas.
As a minimum, the NCAA, NFL, and NBA should eliminate any restrictions on football and basketball athletes going pro so they are not slaves to the NCAA. The current basketball "one and done" situation is ridiculous and wrought with opportunities to violate archaic NCAA rules. This is America (“land of the free”), and people should be free to seek employment anywhere.
Perhaps colleges should be allowed to provide additional funds to Division I scholarship athletes on football and basketball teams based on new NCAA rules that provide for additional college allowances (or stipend) for student athletes, e.g. $3,000 per athlete per year. Not all athletes have access to family funds, but unlike other students they are constrained from earning enough extra money by their commitments to sports and academics.
The suggested athlete stipend of $3,000 would at least cover the gap in scholarship funds for education related expenses.
This new allowance would become the maximum additional amount that a college could give the athlete. Colleges would not be required to give the maximum amount because some can’t afford it (and will likely never be at the top level of Division I sports anyway).
The NCAA has so much money (approximately $400 milllion and growing) that it could fund this. After all, the money really belongs to the colleges anyway.
The hypocrisy of the NCAA and colleges taking advantage of athletes is the real problem that must be fixed, because, after all, this is all about money.
Another problem that needs to be addressed is sports marketers/agents that are not controlled by the colleges. Again, the NCAA, NFL, and NBA need to get together and solve that problem to protect the athletes and colleges.
Perhaps football and basketball sports marketers/agents should be required to have licenses issued by the NFL, NBA, and NCAA working together. If sports marketers/agents violate the NCAA (or NFL or NBA) rules, then their licenses can be terminated or they can be fined. This would help protect the athletes and colleges from sports marketers/agents who break NCAA rules without any recourse.
The NCAA should also be able to fine or otherwise penalize players or coaches who violate the rules and are no longer in college sports. It is not fair to punish student athletes who weren't even at the school when violations took place and let those who committed them not suffer for what they did. This could be part of all agreements between colleges, coaches, and athletes.
It would be a lot more productive for the NCAA, colleges, NFL, and NBA to solve these problems than have investigations that go on for many years and penalize athletes who had nothing to do with violations of obsolete rules.
Updating the NCAA’s definition of “amateurism” similar to the Olympics and allowing colleges to give allowances up to certain NCAA limits would stop most of the NCAA major infractions, allow the athletes to receive more fair compensation for their services, and allow the NCAA and colleges to focus on the rules that make sense.
That has to be a lot better than the current situation!
"All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing." – Edmund Burke
P.S. Here is one of many examples of the NCAA double standards. This video discusses the NCAA taking advantage of athletes. On Apr. 4, 2011, CBS Sports identified actions needed with college football's integrity on the line due to the NCAA.