On the eve of the NCAA and amid discussions concerning recruiting rules, "need" or "no need" scholarships and divisional realignment, it seems essential to ask the question again: What is the purpose of intercollegiate athletics?
Is the major purpose to give students the opportunity to develop their physical abilities to their highest potential or is the purpose to produce winning teams for the college or university?
Intercollegiate athletics originally intended to provide students the opportunity to acquire certain values through physical activity and competition. An educationally oriented athletic program had and still has a valid role in collegiate institutions. However, the original purpose has been blurred by the revenue potential of those sports enjoyed by a public that is willing to pay for the privilege of watching.
The schools have used these sports to produce income, create good public relations, entice contributions and to provide a focal point for students and alumni. This purpose, too, has been accepted by many institutions as a valid one. Therefore, it only makes good sense that athletic programs be differentiated on the basis of these two purposes in regard to their rules, financial support and to their athletes. All that has been written lately concerning possible changes in athletics revolves around results without first defining purpose.
Those self-supporting sports that operate for the school and its benefit should be named "business or semiprofessional sports;" in these sports, the player would receive full "payscholarships," and the financial support would come exclusively from donations and gate receipts because these funds are a direct result of the stated purpose. The University's payment for this public relations service would be the maintenance of the facilities. In order to ensure equality of opportunity, appropriate women's sports must be given the opportunity to become self-supporting. Even if one does not support the idea of athletic scholarships, it is difficult to justify a student paying for the privilige of helping his or her school earn thousands of dollars.
The vast majority of collegiate sports do not produce income or publicity for the school; their chief value lies in the educational benefits to the participants involved. These sports should be named "educational or amateur" and should be fully supported by institutional funds, as wiht any other educational program. These funds must be sufficient to ensure challenging schedules, good coaching and all necessary safety measures. The "frills" of an athletic program are not necessary in order for participants to develop excellence. Budgets for scholarships and recruiting would not be included for those sports, and thus more money would be released for operating expenses.
Because these programs are for the benefit of the participant, it doesn't make sense that he or she should be paid to receive these benefits. And in no way are these sports less important than the business ones. In fact, because they are supported by the university by and for its students, they assume a role of greater importance.
College athletics should be divided by purpose and should return the control of athletics to the institutional presidents. One organization, an Athletic Association of Colleges and Universities, would be formed for all schools and would contain no divisional alignments. Two substructures, the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the Association for Educational Intercollegiate Athletics, would be organized under the guidelines of the stated purpose of each program they are responsible for. Those sports at each institution that are self-supporting would be placed in the NCAA, and those sports emphasizing an educational purpose would be organized by the AEIA. Leagues or divisions could be formed within each substructure if so desired.
This organizational collcept would produce many changes. Surely one question would be how present practices could fit into this pattern. Change can be a winner or a loser. Thoughtful and careful change is invariably a winner. Sydney J. Harris in his book, "Winners and Losers," provides a challenge for those who must make the impending critical decisions:
A winner says,
"There ought to be a better way to do it,"
A loser sats,"That's way it's always been done here."
A winner learns from his mistakes.
A loser learns only not to make mistakes by not trying anything different.
isn't afraid to leave the road when he doesn't agree with the direction it's taking;
follows "the middle of the road" no matter where the road is going.