Fixing college sports requires less talk, more action


NCAA President Mark Emmert speaks at a news conference at the men's Final Four last March in Houston. (David J. Phillip/AP)
John Feinstein
August 18, 2011

When Mark Emmert was named NCAA president in April 2010, the natural question to ask was this: Whom will he choose to emulate in his new role?

We now know the answer. He is Don Vito Corleone.

John Feinstein is a sports columnist for The Washington Post and also provides commentary for the Golf Channel and National Public Radio. View Archive

Earlier this month, Emmert called for a meeting of the five families — also known as the 50 university presidents — to discuss the seemingly out-of-control cheating going on in college football. With both schools from last season’s championship football game (Auburn and Oregon) joining Ohio State, USC and North Carolina in running afoul of NCAA rules, it was time to put an end to this war.

One can almost see Emmert standing in the middle of a long table surrounded by the presidents with all their various functionaries sitting behind them.

“How did it all come to this?” Don Emmert undoubtedly asked. “We are all reasonable men (and a handful of women). It is time for us to make the peace.”

The upshot of the meeting was that the presidents were all shocked — shocked — to learn there was cheating going on, even as they were being presented with their winnings as they left. They also said academic standards needed to be tightened. Novel idea.

Then they went back to raiding each other’s conferences, all in pursuit of extra TV dollars.

Just to review in case you weren’t paying attention: Nebraska is now in the Big Ten, which has 12 teams. The Big 12 has 10 teams. Colorado and Utah are in the Pacific-10, which at least had the decency to rename itself the Pac-12. Brigham Young is an independent.

Wait, there’s more: Texas A&M wants out of the Big 12 to join the SEC. The SEC says no thanks — for now. The SEC might recruit Florida State, Clemson and Missouri. Or it might not. If the ACC were to lose Florida State and Clemson, it would try to raid the Big East again — because that worked out so well last time.

(Memo to ACC Commissioner John Swofford: Good work bringing Miami into the conference. If the latest allegations are even half-true, the ’Canes will make Ohio State and Southern California look like Harvard and Yale. Or Williams and Amherst.)

Meantime, Emmert wants to hold another meeting. This is what he does: He holds meetings.

Please. Enough already. If Emmert or a BCS school president tells you the sun will rise in the East tomorrow, check the western horizon at dawn.

Here’s what needs to happen: The NCAA needs to go away, the same way all corrupt organizations must eventually go away. The Berlin Wall fell, and so did the Soviet Union. The reserve clause went away, and baseball didn’t crumble. New Coke ceased to exist because it was awful.

All those pretty NCAA buildings in Indianapolis need to be torn down. The time for meetings among unreasonable men needs to end. Michael Corleone had it right: You don’t have to wipe everyone out — just your enemies.

The NCAA and the BCS school presidents are the enemy.

College athletics needs to governed by three separate organizations: one for football, one for men’s basketball, one for non-revenue sports. Each is completely different from the others, with needs and issues that have almost nothing in common. To be fair, this is an idea Duke basketball Coach Mike Krzyzewski has pushed for years.

“You need a commissioner for each area, one who has the power to seriously enforce the rules,” Krzyzewski said long ago. “Don’t make rules that can’t be enforced or won’t be enforced. Make rules that are reasonable and give the commissioner the power to come down hard and fast on those who break them.”

The rulebook doesn’t need to be 500 pages. It needs to be closer to 10 pages with clear rules and clear penalties on what happens if you break those rules. If you want to pay players, fine; but if you don’t, then those who do must be punished severely. Stop all the gibberish about institutions cooperating in investigations. Who cares? If you cheated, you cheated.

While we’re at it, the BCS dies along with the NCAA, even though the NCAA has claimed for years it has nothing to do with it. It sanctions it and allows it. Don Emmert may not believe in selling drugs, but he does sell a whole lot of smoke and mirrors.

The football commissioner’s first job will be to get a national championship tournament up and running. The new money that will come pouring in from that should eliminate all the need for conference-jumping. Another thing that will eliminate that need is the pooling of all TV money, just like they do in the NFL.

The question in all this is how do you get the 50 presidents to agree to do this.

Simple: Go to the mattresses. In this case, for once, government needs to intervene.

College football and men’s basketball are multi-billion-dollar businesses being run as an illegal cartel. So don’t say Congress or the president shouldn’t be “wasting time” on sports.

If the president and Congress make it clear to the university presidents that the system is completely unacceptable and they will lose all the tax breaks they currently enjoy if they do not do a complete tear-down, that will force action.

It sounds impossible. So did going to the moon. Sometimes you need to attempt the impossible. Especially when the current situation is completely sickening to witness.

The NCAA needs to sleep with the fishes.

For more from the author, visit his blog at www.feinsteinonthebrink.com

SECTION: {section=sports, subsection=colleges}!!!
INITIAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=bg52e9xhqr, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=3, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, childrenitemsperpage=3, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, includesorts=true, includeheader=true, defaulttab=all, includeverifiedcommenters=true, includerecommend=true, maxitemstop=15, includereport=true, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=3, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!!

UGC FROM ARTICLE: {allow_comments=true, allow_photos=false, allow_videos=false, comments_period=3, comments_source=washpost.com, default_sort=, default_tab=, display_comments=true, is_ugc_gallery=false, max_items_to_display=3, max_items_to_display_top=15, moderation_required=false}!!!

FINAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=bg52e9xhqr, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=3, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, childrenitemsperpage=3, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, includesorts=true, includeheader=true, defaulttab=all, includeverifiedcommenters=true, includerecommend=true, maxitemstop=15, includereport=true, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=3, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!
Comments
SECTION: {section=sports, subsection=colleges}!!!
INITIAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=bg52e9xhqr, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=3, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, childrenitemsperpage=3, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, includesorts=true, includeheader=true, defaulttab=all, includeverifiedcommenters=true, includerecommend=true, maxitemstop=15, includereport=true, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=3, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!!

UGC FROM ARTICLE: {allow_comments=true, allow_photos=false, allow_videos=false, comments_period=3, comments_source=washpost.com, default_sort=, default_tab=, display_comments=true, is_ugc_gallery=false, max_items_to_display=3, max_items_to_display_top=15, moderation_required=false}!!!

FINAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=bg52e9xhqr, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=3, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, childrenitemsperpage=3, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, includesorts=true, includeheader=true, defaulttab=all, includeverifiedcommenters=true, includerecommend=true, maxitemstop=15, includereport=true, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=3, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!
Show Comments