Big let-down: NCAA retreat yields no 'sweeping reforms'

Mr. Mark Emmert
President, NCAA
P.O. Box 6222
Indianapolis, IN 46206

Dear President Emmert:

First, bravo for holding the NCAA’s recent presidential retreat in Indianapolis and not Jamaica. It’s heartening that you and your organizers understood the importance of the retreat’s location and decided to at least put on a show of seriousness.

By holding the retreat at NCAA headquarters, you forced Division I presidents onto your turf, a bold move for an organization that spends most of its time squirming under D-I’s gigantic thumb. There were some notable absences, though: USC, Oklahoma, UVA, Virginia Tech, Auburn, and many others didn’t attend and evidently weren’t even invited. Curious.

As to the retreat itself, you stated its purpose was to review “financial sustainability, integrity and academic performance [and] determine the course of action [needed] to address those challenges.”

Were the retreat’s two days long enough to achieve such lofty goals? Even a wedding takes nearly a year to plan. Maybe D-I presidents are more agreeable than family. It would seem the “substantive change to the enterprise” of college sports would take quite a while– but maybe not. I’ve always heard Rome wasn’t built in a day– maybe two were sufficient. It certainly didn’t take the university presidents long to agree on a wish list.

  • Rewrite the NCAA rule book to reduce the number of rules and focus on significant issues.
  • Improve academic standards for student-athletes and tie participation in all NCAA championships to a team’s academic performance.
  • Revamp the NCAA penalty structure and increase the levels of violations.
  • Refocus the NCAA enforcement staff to concentrate on major infractions.
  • Strengthen the academic requirements for incoming freshmen and student-athletes who transfer from two-year institutions.

I saw the presidents of Ohio State, Miami, and UNC were there, guys with a history of appealing most, if not all, NCAA penalties imposed on their schools. They’ve been reluctant to rebuke or fire coaches and athletic directors, have shown little inclination to hold star players to even minimal academic standards, and have spent a good deal of their time feigning shock and indignation when infractions are pointed out.

According to my research, the phrase “the inmates have taken over the asylum” is attributed to Charlie Chaplin, though Edgar Allan Poe wrote of it in his 1850 story, The System of Dr. Tarr and Prof. Fether. I take it you aren’t a fan of either Chaplin or Poe.

As to the outcome of this retreat, you have my sympathy. You must be terribly disappointed. You’ve been the NCAA president for almost a year, and you’ve said that sweeping reform “has been on my mind since I first decided I wanted to take on the job.”

A cruel blow it must have been, then, to walk away from the retreat having achieved only a “concept of increasing the required academic performance of all teams and mandating that teams must meet those requirements in order to participate in any NCAA-sponsored championship or football bowl game.” And those tournament bans, if they’re approved, won’t be implemented for another year or two.

For a man who began the retreat touting “aggressive and strategic changes,” what you have to show for those two days must be a bitter disappointment indeed.

Let me offer a suggestion for the future, President Emmert. Your retreat proves you’ve got a bit to learn about being consistent and authoritative, so in your spare time, take a dog-training class or visit a kindergarten. You might find that correcting behavior and fostering obedience takes longer than two days to accomplish.

The Sports Doctor
Juanita lives on a farm in Charlotte County with her husband, son, and many dogs.

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