SBD/August 10, 2011/Colleges

Emmert Bullish On Opportunity For NCAA Changes After First Day Of Retreat

Emmert said presidents had little interest in "pay-for-play" proposal
NCAA President Mark Emmert yesterday was "optimistic that change could be achieved" in college sports, following what he "described as an 'open, fresh and robust' five-hour discussion with more than 50 university presidents," according to Terry Hutchens of the INDIANAPOLIS STAR. Discussion at the opening of a two-day retreat "focused on finances." Emmert said that university presidents "generally supported the possibility of granting student-athletes the full cost of attendance, which would expand the support they get beyond the current room, board, tuition, books and supplies." He said, "There's an extreme sense of urgency among all of the presidents and certainly with me that we make steps not just in a few areas but in some very important areas. And we do that in a matter of months and weeks, not years." Emmert said that he "hoped proposals would be brought to the board in October, but if not then, no later than January." Oregon State Univ. President Edward Ray stressed that "action needs to be taken." Ray: "Don't come back with a lot of recommendations that will go into the legislative process for another two years. Give us some meat to chew on and work it over thoughtfully and let's decide over the next several months what we are going to do differently." Emmert indicated that the presidents "had little interest in so-called 'pay-for-play' possibilities" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 8/10).

YES WE CAN: The AP's Michael Marot noted Emmert "wants to cash in on the appetite for change that has been sweeping through major college athletics," and if he "can pull this off, it would mark a dramatic turn in the NCAA's legislative cycle, where proposals can take a year or more to become rules and some simply fade into oblivion." What Emmert "really wants is a governing body that can quickly pivot from issue to issue to solve problems, something that is difficult to do under current bylaws." There are "concerns about increasing the scholarship money allotted to athletes." Emmert acknowledged that there "could be potential problems with competitive balance if one school can give a player more money because it costs more to attend." Marot noted "another problem could arise if some conferences, or some schools, provide the full cost and others do not." But Emmert "left little doubt that member schools support the move" (AP, 8/9). ESPN.com's Tim Keown noted the "underlying theme of Emmert's summit meeting is making the 'student' part of the 'student-athlete' a bit more prominent," and he should be given credit for broaching "some necessary and long-overdue topics." Ohio Univ. professor David Ridpath said, "I haven't been very kind to Mark Emmert. But I'm going to give him credit for at least trying. He's getting this group together and talking -- it's a noble idea." Keown added, "Mostly, the problems in college sports can be distilled to one word: image. It's not amateurism or academic integrity -- it's how things look. University presidents want to rid themselves of the problems that the current system created, but that's because it's difficult and embarrassing to deal with the aftermath" (ESPN.com, 8/9).

COMMUNICATION 101: In N.Y., Pete Thamel reports college coaches and recruits contend that Facebook "accounts for 50 percent of their recruiting interaction," while Twitter is "second and gaining ground." The shift toward social media "has come partly because the NCAA barred coaches from text-messaging athletes in 2007, citing their effect on recruits’ cellphone bills as one reason." NCAA rules stipulate that coaches "are free to e-mail an athlete through Facebook’s in-box function, but they cannot use Facebook’s instant messaging or write on his public wall." On Twitter, coaches "may send direct messages to players but not public messages." But Thamel notes recruits "receive Facebook and Twitter messages on their cellphones in the same form as text messages, which is why the coaches are puzzled about the ban on texting." Univ. of Colorado football coach Jon Embree said, "That’s the one thing I think the NCAA needs to be better at. I don’t think they can get hold of this technology." The NCAA Leadership Council last week said that it "had reached consensus on deregulating electronic communications between coaches and athletes." The council said that it "hoped to present its proposal to the board of directors in October" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/10).
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