The package of proposals by the NCAA Council to reorganize Division I intercollegiate athletics, possibly eliminating more than 40 basketball-oriented members who do not play Division I football, is in sharp contradiction to the NCAA's stated purpose for existing, according to Yale University's athletic director.
"I read from the NCAA constitution, Article II, Section 2. 'Fundamental policy,' " said Frank Ryan in a telephone interview from New Haven, Conn.
" 'The basic purpose of this association is to maintain intercollegiate athletics as an integral part of the educational program, and the athlete as an integral part of the student body and, by so doing, retain a clear line of demarcation between college athletics and professional sports.'
"The point I'm making is that it seems you're getting awfully close to professional sports when you use stadium size and attendance as criteria (for division membership). It's to admit to the debasement of sports in the um size and attendance as criteria."
The votes of the 92 Division I-AA members at the NCAA convention in January likely will determine whether the reorganization package recommended by the NCAA Council last week passes or fails when Division I members vote on it at the NCAA convention at San Diego in January. Of the 277 Division I members, 97 play Division I-A football, 92 play Division I-AA and 88 do not play Division I football.
"You can sum it up in two words: one, money; two, greed," said Gerry Gimelstob, basketball coach at George Washington University.
He was referring to a package that would place minimum requirements on basketball attendance and total scholarships for division members who do not play Division I-A or I-AA football; at the same time, the proposals would allow a school playing major college football to retain Division I status solely by granting 90 football scholarships.
A college or university playing I-AA football would have to grant only five additional scholarships to remain in Division I in all sports if it grants the maximum 75 for football. Under the rules changes proposed by the council last week, minimum attendance requirements also were placed on I-AA football teams.
Locally, American, George Washington and George Mason universities could be dropped to a lower classification.
Colleges in all three factions of Division I would have to play either Division I football or basketball, and a total of eight men's or mixed varsity sports other than football in order to qualify for Division I. Of the 277 current members of Division I, neither the University of San Francisco nor New York University competes in Division I football or basketball.
"Even though we meet the 50 percent (and attendance) requirement, I'm opposed to this in principle," said Frank Rienzo, Georgetown's athletic director. "They talk about commitment; is a school with 38,000 students, almost guaranteeing it large attendance, making more of a commitment than a small school which is running in the red and still carrying on with its program?
"Take a school in the New York area, with 17 colleges and 10 professional sports teams to compete with. Because their attendance is less, that means they have less commitment? We don't all have the same opportunity to make money."
The common factor among these proposals is that members in each of the three segments would be required to provide at least half of the total scholarships, or equivalent cash outlay, available to them.
A total of 180 scholarships is available in I-A, 160 in I-AA and 85 for Division I members who do not play Division I football. The equivalent cash outlay is expected to be about $5,000 per scholarship, according to John Toner, athletic director at the University of Connecticut and secretary-treasurer of the NCAA. That is approximately $450,000 for Division I-A, $400,000 for Division I-AA and $212,500 for the basketball-oriented members of Division I.
"The whole idea is (to show) evidence of a university's commitment to a Division I program," Toner said.
That is not a universally held opinion outside the NCAA Council and the 63 Division I-A members of the College Football Association, which desires a larger share of revenue from multimillion network television contracts. The leaders among the basketball-oriented colleges and universities say, that through a divide-and-conquer strategy, the bottom line is that the football powers eventually will have a smaller Division I (about 120 members) under NCAA auspices.
For the basketball-oriented members to remain Division I, they would have to average 3,500 home basketball attendance or 110,000 annual total attendance for the past four years, and grant half the total scholarships available, or grant the equivalent cash outlays.
An exception clause proposed by Toner would allow basketball-oriented members to retain Division I membership if its conference has at least six members and 80 percent of its teams meeting Division I criteria. Toner said the Big Sky Conference, made up of I-AA football teams, has proposed a minimum of six sports besides football, instead of eight.
According to unaudited figures supplied to the NCAA by the colleges and universities and obtained by The Washington Post, George Washington would keep Division I status because the other nine members of the Atlantic 10 Conference would qualify.