Reform the NCAA? Group's new president has his hands full

  • Article by: RACHEL BLOUNT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 19, 2011 - 12:34 AM
hide

NCAA President Mark Emmert

Photo: EARL WILSON, ASSOCIATED PRESS - NYT

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

It's too early to tell whether Mark Emmert has the stomach to pursue meaningful reform in college athletics. In his keynote address to the NCAA's annual convention Thursday, the organization's new president plucked some low-hanging fruit, promising swift action in response to two high-profile scandals in college football.

Both came to light during Emmert's first few months of duty. An NCAA investigation found that Cecil Newton shopped his son Cam -- the Auburn quarterback who now owns both a Heisman Trophy and a national championship -- to Mississippi State for $180,000. The other involved five Ohio State players who sold rings, jerseys and other items and got discounts at a tattoo parlor.

Those incidents were obvious violations of the spirit, if not the letter, of NCAA law. So it took no particular courage for Emmert to decry them in his speech. "It's wrong for parents to sell the athletic services of their student athletes to a university, and we need to make sure that we have rules to stop that problem,'' he said. "And today, we don't. We have to fix that. Student-athletes trading on their standing as star student-athletes for money or benefits is not acceptable, and we need to address it and make sure it doesn't happen.''

Aside from one startling statement -- who knew the NCAA didn't prohibit parents from bidding out their offspring's skills? -- Emmert followed a predictable script in his first major address. It's a good sign that he intends to strengthen some rules designed to protect the integrity of college sports. But unless he's willing to set his sights farther up the ladder, on the influences that are really corrupting major-college athletics, it's ultimately meaningless.

The NCAA won no points with the public for its handling of the Newton and Ohio State cases. It was determined that Newton didn't know what his father was doing and should remain eligible. The Ohio State players were suspended for the first five games next season, but they were allowed to play in the Sugar Bowl.

No one, save for perhaps the tooth fairy, believes the NCAA would have done anything that would have taken those players off the field. We have become so accustomed to the modern state of college sports -- now a multibillion-dollar business, run by the wealthiest members of the cartel for their enrichment -- that we expect the interests of the TV networks and the power conferences will always rule.

Emmert is clearly aware of the cynicism that surrounds the NCAA, and he didn't shy from the criticism. "Behaviors that undermine the collegiate model wherever they occur are a threat to those basic values, and we can't tolerate them,'' he said. "If we believe in those values, we need to be ready to defend them. And if we don't, we have to be ready to suffer the criticism that comes from not doing so.''

It's clear, though, that plenty of institutions don't really believe in the values Emmert was talking about. That is a far bigger problem than a few Buckeyes getting cheap tattoos. Cecil Newton wouldn't have tried to sell his kid's skills if there wasn't a market for it, and the chronic academic underachievement at some programs makes the term "student-athlete'' an oxymoron on their campuses.

Last summer, the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics issued recommendations on how to shift the emphasis back to education and away from the sports-industrial complex. Among them: Limit postseason play to schools that achieve a 50 percent graduation rate. Reallocate some revenues to reward teams for meeting academic standards. Reduce the length of seasons and the number of games.

The Knight Commission has been urging such action for years. But as TV revenues and bowl payouts keep soaring -- Auburn and Oregon each made $21 million for their respective conferences for appearing in the national championship game -- many college presidents will keep ignoring them.

Emmert said he intends to step up enforcement of NCAA rules and address issues ranging from academic fraud to unscrupulous sports agents. Judging from Thursday's speech, he seems sincere in his desire to uphold the values that should be the backbone of college sports. He can't do it unless university presidents, athletic directors and other people of power are willing to buy in.

It remains to be seen how hard Emmert will push them, and how persuasive he will be. He might succeed in changing some rules. But unless he can make some headway toward changing the culture, it will all be for nought.

Rachel Blount • rblount@startribune.com

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Detroit 16 2nd Qtr
Philadelphia 28
Portland 21 1st Qtr 0:01
Cleveland 31
Sacramento 6:30 PM
Toronto
Boston 7:00 PM
Minnesota
Dallas 7:00 PM
Houston
Denver 7:00 PM
New Orleans
Brooklyn 7:00 PM
Atlanta
Oklahoma City 7:00 PM
New York
Charlotte 7:30 PM
San Antonio
LA Clippers 8:00 PM
Utah
Washington 9:30 PM
Phoenix
Toronto 6:30 PM
New Jersey
Pittsburgh 7:00 PM
Washington
Chicago 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Temple 25 1st Half 5:38
UCF 14
Winthrop 23 1st Half 6:03
Coastal Carolina 24
Lafayette 16 1st Half 6:35
Colgate 21
Northeastern 12 1st Half 7:20
Drexel 11
Wake Forest 21 1st Half 7:48
Florida State 12
Rhode Island 19 1st Half 6:55
Fordham 24
Delaware 29 1st Half 6:27
James Madison 21
South Carolina 19 1st Half 7:21
LSU 20
New Hampshire 19 1st Half 6:59
Maine 6
Seton Hall 28 1st Half 3:07
Marquette 25
Binghamton 20 1st Half 8:27
UMBC 10
American Univ 24 1st Half 6:51
Navy 22
Elon 12 1st Half 7:00
UNC-Wilmington 27
Wright State 28 1st Half 5:57
Oakland 19
Minnesota 20 1st Half 5:04
Penn State 28
Duquesne 15 1st Half 6:40
Richmond 35
SMU 15 1st Half 6:36
South Florida 18
Hartford 18 1st Half 6:17
Stony Brook 14
Albany 15 1st Half 4:11
Vermont 11
Hofstra 15 1st Half 6:17
William & Mary 42
UNC-Asheville 22 1st Half 5:53
Longwood 17
Radford 6:30 PM
Char Southern
Holy Cross 0 Postponed
Loyola-Maryland 0
Duke 0 1st Half 20:00
Notre Dame 0
Texas Tech 2 1st Half 19:15
Oklahoma 0
Oregon State 7:00 PM
Arizona State
Morehead State 7:00 PM
Austin Peay
Drake 7:00 PM
Bradley
Lehigh 7:00 PM
Bucknell
Rice 7:00 PM
Houston
Missouri State 7:00 PM
Illinois State
Loyola-Chicago 7:00 PM
Wichita State
Nebraska Omaha 7:00 PM
South Dakota St
Northern Iowa 7:05 PM
Southern Ill
Louisville 8:00 PM
Boston College
St Johns 8:00 PM
Creighton
East Carolina 8:00 PM
Memphis
Georgia Tech 8:00 PM
Miami-Florida
Miss State 8:00 PM
Ole Miss
Clemson 8:00 PM
NC State
Indiana 8:00 PM
Purdue
Kansas 8:00 PM
TCU
Oregon 9:00 PM
Arizona
Air Force 9:00 PM
San Jose St
Stanford 10:00 PM
Washington
Rider 56 FINAL
Siena 49
Dayton 76 FINAL
Richmond 62
Eastern Kentucky 53 FINAL
Jacksonville St 73
Saint Josephs 0 Postponed
Saint Louis 0
UMBC 26 1st Half 7:39
Binghamton 15
Akron 17 1st Half 5:26
Ohio U 32
Ball State 26 1st Half 6:14
Miami-Ohio 13
Memphis 16 1st Half 6:06
Cincinnati 14
East Carolina 8 1st Half 10:55
(2) Connecticut 29
Murray State 21 1st Half 3:40
Eastern Illinois 28
Kent State 24 1st Half 6:33
Central Michigan 24
UT Martin 34 1st Half 3:49
Tennessee St 24
Eastern Michigan 18 1st Half 9:58
Western Mich 23
Bucknell 18 1st Half 7:21
Lehigh 20
Indiana 12 1st Half 7:39
Michigan State 21
Colgate 29 1st Half 6:29
Lafayette 15
Fordham 21 1st Half 5:53
Davidson 17
Duquesne 19 1st Half 6:39
St Bonaventure 15
George Mason 22 1st Half 5:18
VA Commonwealth 27
Detroit 14 1st Half 4:51
Youngstown St 25
Army 0 Postponed
Boston U 0
Loyola-Maryland 0 Postponed
Holy Cross 0
SMU 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Oklahoma St 7:00 PM
Kansas State
West Virginia 7:00 PM
Texas Tech
Denver 7:00 PM
South Dakota
Northwestern St 7:00 PM
Central Arkansas
Austin Peay 7:00 PM
SIU-Edwardsville
Kansas 7:00 PM
Iowa State
Bowling Green 7:00 PM
Northern Ill
Penn State 7:00 PM
Minnesota
San Jose St 8:00 PM
Air Force
Boise State 8:00 PM
Colorado State
Utah State 8:00 PM
Wyoming
San Diego State 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Nevada 9:00 PM
UNLV
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Do you favor the plan for expanded athletic facilities at the U of M?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close