SBD/August 18, 2014/Colleges

Navy AD Laments Impact Of Autonomy, Leery Of "Semi-Professional" Football

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Niumatalolo said non-Power Five programs are fighting just to stay relevant
The Naval Academy, "by its very nature as a service academy and the fact football players are considered no different than any other midshipman on campus, cannot even consider many of the proposed changes" that could come in the wake of the Power Five conferences gaining autonomy, according to Bill Wagner of the Annapolis CAPITAL. Navy football coach Ken Niumatalolo said, "There's going to be two groups of football programs at the college level -- the Big Five and the rest of us. We have no say, we have no power. Those guys have all the power. We're just fighting to try to stay relevant. ... I have no idea what's going to happen. We'll try to make the best out of whatever rummage is left. It's like a tornado comes through and we'll try to rebuild our house with the scraps that are leftover. I've seen some of these things coming for a long time. I don't like it and I don't think it's right, but it's reality. What can we do?" Navy AD Chet Gladchuk: "The money is killing the game. The greed factor has driven some irrational thinking, in my opinion. When you hear some of the new rules being discussed, it sounds and looks more and more like a semi-professional operation." Wagner writes Gladchuk is "somewhat disillusioned by where things are headed during the era of permissive legislation." He said, "This whole exercise is being couched under the auspices of helping student-athletes. That's the overriding theme. Those who have been in the business can see the writing on the wall. It's only a matter of time before there are all sorts of other benefits and perks, some of which will be absolutely ludicrous, in order to justify spending all these new-found dollars that are being generated. It's going to spiral out of control" (Annapolis CAPITAL, 8/16).

PLIGHT OF THE LITTLE GUY: USA TODAY's Eric Prisbell writes, "Athletic officials across the country say one thing remains absent as they prepare to confront new financial and philosophical hurdles: clarity." Big Sky Conference Commissioner Doug Fullerton said, "We are bumping into things and we don't even know exactly what they are yet." Boise State AD Mark Coyle: "These are turbulent times, no question. There are going to be changes. And it's going to require athletic departments at any level to successfully adjust to that." Powell notes the Mid-American Conference "has created a six-member task force to study the implications of providing cost-of-attendance stipends to athletes." Eastern Michigan AD and task force Chair Heather Lyke said, "People might have massage therapists or hot-and-cold tubs or 55,000 nutritional meals and all that stuff. But those are distinguishing factors that already exist right now between our conference and the autonomy 65 schools. But if you change one of the fundamental principles in what a (scholarship) looks like, that's a significant fundamental principle that we want to be able to adopt as well" (USA TODAY, 8/18). Univ. of Hartford President Walter Harrison said, "There's a lot of unhappiness at my level. Phil Hanlon, president of Dartmouth, on a conference call said, 'So how does this help us?' That's one reaction. The other is, this isn't what we envisioned college sports to be like" (HARTFORD COURANT, 8/17).

A CHANGE IS GONNA COME: In Miami, Jacob Feldman noted U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken's ruling in the Ed O'Bannon case, which stipulated that the NCAA cannot stop players from selling the rights to their names, images and likenesses, "will not affect anything on the field this season, but her words will impact an evolving debate." Before Wilken’s ruling "leads to change, the NCAA’s appeals will have to be resolved, and schools will have to figure out how the decision affects issues such as taxes and Title IX." Still, the words Wilken "used and the reactions they elicited point toward a future with a weaker NCAA, freer schools and more empowered athletes" (MIAMI HERALD, 8/17). But in L.A., Michael Hiltzik wrote, "Many observers say that Wilken threw the NCAA for a big loss. They're wrong." While Wilken "chipped away at some NCAA prohibitions on athlete compensation," her ruling "changes much less than either side thinks." Wilken in her ruling "ridicules the NCAA's assertions that limits on athlete compensation are crucial to preserve popularity with the fans, competitive balance, and the educational component in the life of the 'student-athlete.'" Yet her prescriptions "still are based on the assumption that big-time football and basketball are essential elements of the university experience." She "has moved the goal posts on the compensation of these players, but what's really needed is to knock them over" (L.A. TIMES, 8/17). In Boston, Bob Ryan wrote of the NCAA, "It’s dead, all right. At least as we have always known it." August '14 "will henceforth be the dividing line in American college sports history." Ryan: "I believe it’s the current leader in the clubhouse as the sports story of the year" (BOSTON GLOBE, 8/17).

EDITORIAL BOARDS WEIGH IN: A Portland OREGONIAN editorial stated both the autonomy vote and Wilken's ruling "favor not only the schools in the big conferences, but also the richest schools within those leagues and, especially, schools with wealthy boosters." School presidents "must be diligent in coming months to safeguard academic integrity and the financial stability of their athletic programs and overall institutional budgets." Regardless of how cost-of-living stipends "are distributed, schools must continue to enhance and enforce academic standards so that athletes remain students even if they are paid more like professionals" (Portland OREGONIAN, 8/17). A HOUSTON CHRONICLE editorial stated critics of both changes warn that allowing the "big guys to get even richer and more powerful will come at the expense" of other D-I schools, including Rice and the Univ. of Houston. But if the changes "eventually prompt Rice and UH and all the other not-quite-prime-time schools to reassess the devil's bargain they've made with big-time college sports, then that's a good thing." Realizing that a "multi-billion-dollar entertainment business masquerading as college sports has an insidious way of undermining the very purpose of an academic institution, they'll perhaps decide they don't have to play that particular game" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 8/17).
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