by Kent Sterling
After reading the findings of several committees formed to examine and reform the mission of athletics on the campuses of large universities, my eyes and brain are weary. The principal recommendations involved forming more committees to prompt additional gathering of perspective and data.
Jesus. If bureaucrats are good at anything, they are good at forming committees where discussions can occur without any action being required.
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The truth is the chances of meaningful reform stand at zero because the people in these meetings are paid by the word rather than the deed. Success for these pedantic and inert procedurbyterians is determined by reports generated through meetings, rather than action.
No one has ever lost a job because they attended too many useless meetings. When decisions are made that require a concrete undertaking, someone is ultimately held responsible for the fallout. That puts jobs at risk, and what is the point of that?
So, despite all of this talking about athletic reform, those issues people find problematic will continue to exist because their solutions would require a measure of change for which a bureaucrat would have to assume responsibility. As we have discussed, that does not happen because if no one is responsible for a problem, jobs are safe, and the people responsible for the current mess are all long gone because the last time anyone tried to substantially change the game was 1939.
I do not enjoy sitting in endless meetings, and would prefer bold activity to mindless yakking, so here are ten corrective measures a consortium of college presidents could adopt to move the needle toward a more positive athletic experience for “student-athletes.” Several would bring with them a new set of less irritating problems, but we aren’t after perfection here. Striving for perfection is paralytic, and as a result, not a welcome goal for this Sterling Commission of one.
- Pay coaches not one dollar more than the average salary of a fully tenured professor, but allow them to earn tenure in the same way a professor can. Paying coaches more than $5 million to recruit and educate students results in priorities that are nowhere near the best interest or mission of the university.
- Eliminate freshman eligibility. Adapting to college life is tough enough without worrying about knocking down jump shots in front of thousands. In truth, I believe freshman are quick to embrace the collegiate lifestyle, so this move would be mostly symbolic. It would also cripple the one-and done rewards for basketball programs thrilled to welcome those basketball players who know before setting foot on campus that their collegiate experience is more a purgatory prior to their real goal, rather than a choice to seek higher learning.
- Allow athletes to control and monetize their likeness in the same way professional athletes do. Money earned is not held in a trust. It is paid immediately to student-athletes just as it would be to any other adult. Players are allowed to enter an agreement with an agent for the purpose of capitalizing on their image – just as an other adult is.
- All athletic practices must be held during times not ordinarily devoted to academics. Too often, athletes are steered away from majors and classes that utilize periods that are convenient for coaches to hold practice.
- Games must be played Thursday through Saturday to reduce travel during the week. I would prefer the Ivy League schedule of playing Friday and Saturdays, but that’s not realistic.
- Coaches who are found to break NCAA rules are banned for coaching at at NCAA member institution for the rest of their lives. No appeal. Support an atmosphere of academic fraud – gone. Bid for a recruit – gone.
- Players in all sports are given as part of their scholarships a $100 per week stipend to cover ancillary expenses like laundry, clothes, food other than what is provided by the school. Some student-athletes are unable to engage in normal live type activities, and are unable to work for the cash needed to do so. After scaling back the wages of coaches to professorial levels, there should be plenty of loot to spread around.
- Recruiting is limited to one month per year for all sports. The relentless barrage of texts, calls, and letters isn’t good for recruits or coaches. During that month, there is no limit on number or types of contacts.
- There is no limit on number or types of games coaches can attend to watch prospective student-athletes.
- Practices and individual workouts can be scheduled throughout the 12-month calendar for up to 30 hours per week. To not allow that restricts the amount of improvement student-athletes can reap as they prepare to play professionally. If college football and basketball are to be used as a de facto minor league feeder system for the NFL and NBA, student-athletes should be allowed to prepare as well as possible.
There you have it in just over 800 words. Reforms that make sense presented without authoring an encyclopedia-esque set of volumes.
College is supposed to be for the benefit of the student-athletes who donate so much energy to the universities they attend. Keeping both eyes on that focus can’t help but improve systems and opportunity.
Doing the right thing is always much more complicated than it should be.