Monday, September 27, 2010

Will tough NCAA stance on rule breaking make educational difference? Or just better relations with the pros?

By Tom Grant
PhD student, Center for ETHICS*

The NCAA is getting tough on rule-breakers. This year, the NCAA hit Southern Cal with a two-year bowl and loss of 20 scholarships after football star Reggie Bush and basketball standout O.J. Mayo were caught accepting gifts from outside promoters. It’s the toughest penalty in years.

Incoming NCAA president Mark Emmert told the Associated Press that he recognizes how much temptation athletes face: "Around elite athletes, there are always people who see an opportunity to make money in the future, so the opportunities for those things are sort of omnipresent and what the university president and athletic directors have to do is be as rigorous as they can with what the university stands for, their values and be very attentive to it.”

Harsh penalties are designed to encourage other athletic departments to work harder to prevent problems from occurring. "The key is trying to get the penalties to line up with the bad behavior and getting others to change so that they play within the rules," Emmert said. The NCAA has nearly doubled the number of investigators since 2003. Emmert says he may cut the NCAA’s staff of almost 500, but not it’s 23-person enforcement unit.

One of Emmert’s ideas is to create a points system for rule breakers, so that coaches and others involved in illicit activity cannot simply move on to another place, leaving the university behind with the penalties.

Some of his proposals include working with the NBA to create a baseball-style draft rule. Currently, NBA teams cannot draft high school players but can draft college players after their first year, which has encouraged many star players to take a “one and done” college career. A baseball-style draft rule would allow high school players to be drafted, but require those that are not drafted to commit to college for a set period of time before they can be drafted.

"I much prefer the baseball model, for example, that allows a young person if they want to go play professional baseball, they can do it right out of high school, but once they start college they've got to play for three years or until they're 21," Emmert, who is leaving the University of Washington to take the helm of the NCAA, said in a radio interview with KJR. "I like that a good deal.

"But what you have to also recognize is that rule isn't an NCAA rule…. That's a rule of the NBA. And it's not the NBA itself, but the NBA Players Association. So to change that rule will require me and others working with the NBA, working with the players association."

Emmert has also had discussions with the NFL and its union about illicit activity by sports agents. Emmert believes working closely with pro sports leagues and players unions will help clean up the environment of sport. “Emmert said it’s all part of a bigger plan to help police everything from unsavory agents to schools that ignore the rules,” the AP reported.

One question arises from Emmert's plan to get tough on schools and coaches, however. The purpose of college sport is supposed to be education. Is this new approach by the NCAA going to create a better environment for education of athletes? Or is it designed to improve the NCAA's position as a farm system for professional sports?

Here’s what Dr. Sharon Kay Stoll says about Emmert’s plan to get tough.

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