SBD/July 26, 2013/Colleges

Emmert Calls For D-I Summit To Discuss Reform In NCAA After Renewed Calls For It

Emmert expects operational changes in the NCAA to be adopted within a year
NCAA President Mark Emmert on Thursday said that he "agrees with major-college football commissioners demanding substantial change" in the organization and has "called a summit of Division I schools in January," according to a front-page piece by Mark Alesia of the INDIANAPOLIS STAR. The NCAA's exec committee and the D-I board will "meet Aug. 8 in Indianapolis and begin discussing models for a drastically different way to govern the 348 schools in the association’s top division." Emmert said that he "expects significant changes to how the NCAA operates to be adopted within the next year." At issue is the "ability of the richest athletic programs ... to set policy without the smaller D-I programs stopping them because of financial concerns." Emmert within the past week "sent a letter to all D-I presidents, athletic directors, commissioners, faculty athletic representatives and senior woman administrators asking them to save the dates of Jan. 16 and 17." Emmert said, "There’s a need to recognize there are Division I schools with $5 million athletic budgets and $155 million athletic budgets, and trying to find a model that fits all of them is the enormous challenge right now." Alesia notes commissioners from the five power football leagues all "used their recent football media days to say they’re tired of waiting for change." The fact that major conferences keep their own football money has "helped fuel speculation about the big schools splitting from the NCAA entirely." Emmert: "There certainly hasn’t been anyone pursuing (a split from the NCAA) seriously. The interest that I hear from everyone, including those (major football) commissioners, is to try and find a way to meet the needs of all the membership inside the association." He added that none of the changes being discussed would "affect the NCAA basketball tournament" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 7/26).

SCOTT CALLS FOR EVOLUTION, NOT REVOLUTION: The AP's Ralph Russo reported Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott on Thursday "joined the chorus of commissioners calling for sweeping change in the NCAA, and said it can happen without confrontation." Scott said, "I'm certainly aligned with what you heard from my colleagues this week in terms of the need for transformative change, but I think it can be evolutionary and not revolutionary. I don't think it will be as confrontational and controversial a process as some of the reports I have heard." Russo noted the "most notable issue" the commissioners had with the NCAA has "been a $2,000 stipend that would be added to the athletic scholarship to cover the full-cost of college attendance." Scott: "Schools that have resources and want to be able to do more for student-athletes are frustrated, concerned that we're being held back from doing more for the student-athletes in terms of the stipend." Scott said that he "still wants FBS to have a 'so-called big tent,' with more than just the top five conferences being included." He added, "That's why the reports of a possible breakaway and things like that are overcooked. That's not anyone's agenda" (AP, 7/25). Conference USA Commissioner Britton Banowsky also said that his conference "supports efforts" to change NCAA procedures. Banowsky: "We've got problems that are systemic. In an environment where coaches are seeing amazing growths in their compensation packages, student-aid packages have pretty much remained the same. There's tension there that needs to be resolved. There's a shared frustration. We have spent the last couple of years on conference realignment. We need to spend the next couple of years on system realignment" (Norfolk VIRGINIAN-PILOT, 7/26).

A MATTER OF WHEN, NOT IF: SI.com's Pete Thamel reported there is a "clear feeling" among numerous high-level college sports officials that there will "be many changes at the highest levels of college sports within the next year." One official said, "There's such momentum at this point. This wasn't an accident that you're getting this series of media day comments. The train is moving." Thamel noted the five major-conference commissioners agree that the situation is "untenable, that it's only getting worse and that there is a lack of NCAA leadership." What they "haven't figured out yet is a solution." An internal audit of the "inner workings of the NCAA will be completed" in January, and officials "don't expect the results to be pretty." One thing is "clear: College sports will likely look drastically different by the start of the 2014-15 school year, and there's a question of whether ... Emmert will be around for it." However "obvious the public disapproval of Emmert is from college leaders, there's even less faith in him privately." The "prevailing thought is that the NCAA isn't healthy and is not in a better position than when Emmert took over." His "refusals to admit he'd do anything differently in a recent ESPN article about his leadership was his latest public relations blunder." There is a notion that if Emmert "survives the next three months or so, he could embrace the inevitable change, attach himself to it and potentially overhaul his current image of being inept and ineffective." But there is a "lot of skepticism, as he's buried himself too deep and failed to show leadership on seemingly obvious issues the NCAA could legitimately impact, such as concussions" (SI.com, 7/25).

THE STUMBLING BLOCK THAT IS THE STIPEND: In Louisville, Tim Sullivan reports proposals to "increase the value of college scholarships to the 'full cost of attendance'" would amount to "maybe $2,000 per scholarship athlete per year." However, at mid-major schools, that amount is "a burden." Western Kentucky Univ. AD Todd Stewart said, "We have to balance our budget. If you did that for 200 scholarship athletes, that’s $400,000. For us, with a budget in the $20-22 million range, that’s almost a 2 percent hit. We’d have to increase revenues proportionally or tighten our belts." Sullivan noted whether WKU can "continue to afford 19 varsity sports if it must pay sweetened athletic stipends is a question that heightens Stewart’s fears that 'innocent people end up getting hurt'" (Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL, 7/26). In Utah, Landon Hemsley writes "cost of living stipend" is a phrase fans "should get used to hearing, because in the end, the ability for major programs to pay their players is what this is all about." Two factors "cast an illuminating light on very realistic ulterior motives these commissioners and the schools they represent may have in suggesting that they would like to pay their players the actual cost of attending school rather than just tuition." By paying players, the "leaders of the college football world cannot be held liable for licensing their likeness without compensation." Also, the power conferences "will have achieved a huge football recruiting advantage -- maybe the largest ever -- which is the whole reason why small schools have killed proposals to begin paying players" (DESERET NEWS, 7/26).

PLAYOFF PLAYS INTO EQUATION: ESPN's Rod Gilmore noted part of the "pressure and the push" on reform in college sports is due to the College Football Playoff coming in '14. Gilmore: "A lot of money is at stake, and if you shrink the number of conferences that are eligible, that are playing each other, that's more money for the big guys." Fans "may lose Cinderella" teams like Boise State and Northern Illinois, but they will get "more of the big teams playing each other, more Big 12 against the SEC and that sort of thing" ("College Football Live," ESPN, 7/25).
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