One of the frustrations for those passionate about reforming college sports is that the group with the most clout at each school--the faculty--usually has been the least involved. A two-day conference whose advertised objective is to end that apathy by offering a plan to address the "hypocrisy" at most major schools began today at Drake University.
Called "Corruption in College Sports: The Way Out," the conference has about four dozen people from around the country examining nearly a dozen proposals before producing that plan Friday. Most of the participants are professors, many of whom have spoken or written about what they regard as a need for change, but the group includes Creed Black, who in 1990 helped put together the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics that called for university presidents to assume control of college sports.
Black opened the conference today by saying the Knight Commission, whose last report was in 1993, agreed with the proposed solutions of the last such national body that examined the problems in college sports, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. That was in 1929.
"Seventy years later, here we are," he said. "Where is the faculty? Where has it been all this time. I know where it's not been--out defending the integrity of higher education against the corruptive influence of big-time college athletics."
Added former Louisiana State men's basketball coach Dale Brown: "Fraud is why we're here. From the NCAA on, it's a fraud."
The conference's organizer, Jon Ericson, a professor of rhetoric and communication studies at Drake, conceded that crafting a plan in such a short time that would put college sports in its proper place is "daunting."
Some of the participants disagree on a few broad-based issues. For instance, Black would like to work within the present NCAA structure, saying: "If schools would follow the rules, the NCAA would have a different role."
Black wanted a representative of the NCAA here. None was invited. William C. Dowling, a professor of English literature at Rutgers who leads a movement to force the school to withdraw from the Big East Conference and de-emphasize intercollegiate athletics, said the NCAA is a major part of the problem and that he would not have attended had someone from the NCAA been here.
"There's been a growing feeling that the whole rotten business has to be ripped down to the foundation and built upright," Dowling said in an interview. "The number of people who are informed and concerned about this are through with the [nonsense] that consists of half measures, noises of concern and all the rest that results in a dust-up that lasts 48 hours in the wake of a major scandal or something like the Knight Commission.
"If there is hope in this situation that there hasn't been in any similar gathering, it's because you have a bunch of practiced guerrilla fighters who are prepared to do what it takes" to enact meaningful change. An NCAA spokesman had no immediate response.
The proposals under discussion include:
* To be admitted to a college, an athlete must have standardized test scores at least equal to that of his or her entering class. At many schools, the difference in the Scholastic Assessment Test scores for athletes and other students is more than 300 points.
* Academic counseling and support programs should be taken out of the athletic departments.
* The majors, academic advisors, courses, grade-point averages and instructors should be disclosed for all scholarship athletes.
* Football schedules be limited to 10 games and basketball schedules to 20 games, plus two preseason exhibitions. But Division I-A could have an eight-team football playoff "commencing the Saturday following Thanksgiving."
* Student fees for athletics would be optional.
* The president and "appropriate" academic administrators should replace the faculty representative for athletics and the faculty athletic committees.
"In our year-long hearings," Black said in an interview, "the faculty representatives were the least impressive groups we heard. They all seemed to be co-opted by the athletics department."