Commission Has No Chance
TOM KERTES & M.C. COHEN
you are, like many critics of college sports, sick of student-“athletes”
rarely, if ever, attending class, or if you’re outraged that your
university’s basketball coach makes over fifty times the salary
of its Nobel Prize winning physics professor, you will be riled
up about the Knight Commission’s recommendations for cleaning
up college sports.
The ten year-old Commission, made up of 28 college presidents,
business leaders and other people connected to the field of education,
reconvened in June 2001 and published several recommendations.
While the Commission’s basic tenet may be right on the money—that
intercollegiate athletics has become a monster run amok that pays
only lipservice to academics—ultimately, the Commission has only
the power to recommend, and the NCAA does not need to listen.
Add to this the fact that, since the initial recommendations in
1991, college sports have gotten far worse, and some Commission
members may be aiding in the very commercialization they deplore.
At best, we have a wonderful public relations coup for the NCAA—“Look,
we’re actually trying to do something!” At worst, this is an insult
to everyone involved.
The Commission said that that athletic teams that do not graduate
at least 50 percent of their players should be barred from conference
championships and postseason play, and college athletes should
be prohibited from wearing corporate logos on their uniforms.
The Commission recommended that the salaries of college coaches
be brought in line with other university educators and that the
NBA and the NFL, should form minor leagues. The Commission also
supported “creating an independent watchdog body” to monitor college
In theory, much of what the Commission has recommended makes sense.
However, in practice, college sports have gone way too far to
turn back now.
The Big Ten, the Big East, or other major conferences, will not
heed the 50 percent graduation rate recommendation and play their
postseason tournaments with half their teams. Alumni, the colleges’
major donors, will not support the school if the football games
do not fill the stadiums. And network television will not pay
colleges to air biology majors playing intramural lacrosse.
And what about coaches making less money? Let’s be realistic.
How many chemistry professors bring in the kind of revenue a successful
basketball coach does? College sports have become all about money,
and the business is not is about to change.
are in the education business,” said Theodore Hesburgh, President
Emeritus of Notre Dame co-chairman of the Commission. “Not in
the entertainment business.” Then what is Notre Dame doing with
that multi-million-dollar, exclusive NBC football/basketball contract?
It’s time to take a look at the way things are in college sports.
But its time for some to start by taking a good, hard look in
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