DALLAS, JUNE 29 -- The participants in the first national debate on the proper role of intercollegiate athletics in higher education wanted to be provocative, and they were today during the opening session of an NCAA special convention.
Eliminate bowl games and the postseason basketball tournament immediately, suggested Chancellor Ira M. Heyman of California-Berkeley, the leadoff speaker. President Richard Warch of Lawrence (Wis.) University proposed a Robin Hood approach to revenue-sharing: divide bowl and basketball tournament receipts equally among all NCAA members.
"It was for shock value and provocation," said Heyman. "But I believe in the way I spoke . . . I may be the only Division I president with a Division III mentality."
Citing overcommercialism, overemphasis and spiraling costs, Heyman also proposed basing financial aid for athletes on need; declaring freshmen ineligible and giving them only three years of competition; creating a minor league farm system for football and basketball, and creating fewer incentives to win at all costs with more revenue sharing.
The diversity of opinion within the gargantuan organization was evidenced in the next speaker, President Frank Horton of Oklahoma University, a big-time football power. He suggested freedom of choice, saying, "It is hypocritical to believe a college with a visible athletic program is less interested in its academic reputation.
"No school is better or worse because of the level of competition it desires," Horton said. "Don't legislate mediocrity. Let us not legislate Division I-A into Division III and Division III into Division XI."
Warch said he suggested the Robin Hood approach to revenue-sharing to provoke thought about alternatives to depending on sports as a "revenue-producing venture." He also suggested that all athletic programs be funded just like all other educational activities.
Heyman called this one of the best ideas produced. His athletic program, as well as many others, including Maryland's, are prohibited by state law from getting tax money to operate. Heyman said he would be inclined to attempt to convince legislators that such funding would improve the integrity of the game.
Today's three-hour debate was the beginning of an 18-month period of national forums, designed to result in reform proposals to be considered at the 1989 NCAA convention. Maryland Chancellor John B. Slaughter, chairman of the Presidents Commission, said there will be "three to five, more likely three" more national forums before that convention. The next likely will be in September or October, the site and subject to be determined.
Slaughter conceded there was "no new ground broken" during today's debate, but that wasn't the purpose. "We wanted people to see in higher education and intercollegiate athletics there is room for a large range of views."
But, Heyman later was asked, if his and Horton's views were so diametrically oppposed, could their athletic programs coexist in the same subdivision? Heyman replied: "I don't know what the outcome of all this is going to be."
He said making a choice between "a big big-time" division and the next level was one that would be difficult for three or four schools in his conference. They would be the leaders, along with similar schools in other areas. He expects schools in other Division I-A conferences to reach for a middle-ground solution. "It's one of the inertias for that not occuring," he said.
After the four presidents spoke, there were six respondents, including academic and athletics officials. "Is it possible we have meant the enemy and he is us?" asked Gene Corrigan, athletic director at Notre Dame.
President Kenneth Keller of Minnesota said: "We in Division I are in an entertainment business and we can't fool ourselves." But he also said that the key is making sure the needs of the university are served in that model.
Donna Lopiano, women's athletic director at Texas, said athletics will have problems "until we start treating athletic programs as we treat academic programs. Then they will evolve as the educational programs we want them to be."
Bo Schembechler, football coach at Michigan, the only coach to speak, told the presidents, "Let's talk to coaches. We are not the enemy. We want the same things you do."
Schbechler also spoke to the cost-containment issues that will be voted on Tuesday in the concluding session of this special convention. He warned the delegates about making cuts too hastily, especially a Pac-10 proposal to reduce football scholarships from 95 to 90.
That proposal seems doomed. There is widespread support throughout the College Football Association to retain 95 scholarships, and coaches Vince Dooley of Georgia and Joe Paterno of Penn State spoke to that subject at the CFA meeting here today. Both warned that further cuts and a reduction in coaching staffs, another item on the agenda, is "flirting with the possibility of reducing the c alibre of the game," Dooley said.
The outcome of the football scholarship vote, to be determined early Tuesday morning, also may have an effect on the outcome of a proposal to cut across-the-board scholarships in nonrevenue sports. With women's groups already fighting the proposal as disproportionate, Big Ten officials said their schosols would vote against it.
Pac-10 Commissioner Tom Hansen said his league's 11 votes would go against it -- "On principle -- if the league's proposed reduction in football scholarships is voted down.
In an effort to make the nonrevenue scholarship cutback more equitable for the women, an amendment will be introduced today to give back two scholarships in track and one in swimming. Those were the two women's sports cut by more than one scholarship.
There also was some doubt whether a proposal to limit all sports seasons to 26 weeks would get to the floor or would be referred back to committee for refinement.
The U.S. Olympic Committee opposes this on grounds it will hurt training for Olympic athletes in swimming, gymnastics and wrestling. The Pac-10 plans to offer an amendment that exempts individual sports from the rule.
In another development, Jim Jarrett, athletic director at Old Dominion, said about 50 schools, which might include Georgetown, are about to form a Division I-AAA in football. Scholarships would be based on need and there would be limitations on schedules, recruiting and spring practice.
Among the schools that might join such a division is Georgetown, which currently plays Division III football, and perhaps two dozen current members of Division I-AA. Advantages would include being able to count football as one of the seven sports required to be a Division I member.