Triangle ADs: NCAA system not broken but could be fixed
Posted July 17
Durham, N.C. — The NCAA system may not be completely broken, but it could use some fixing was the general consensus among the athletic directors from the four major Triangle universities Thursday as they participated in a 90-minute, open forum discussion.
From education and cost of attendance to transfer rules to pay-for-play models, no question was off limits for University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s Bubba Cunningham, Duke University’s Dr. Kevin White, North Carolina State University’s Debbie Yow and North Carolina Central University’s Dr. Ingrid Wicker-McCree at a Fan Town Hall hosted by 99.9 The Fan ESPN Radio and simulcasted on WRAL-2 and WRALSportsFan.com.
“We used to be in the education business. For whatever reason we are now in the entertainment business,” said White.
One of the most discussed topics was the quality of education that student athletes are getting and whether or not athletics are being prioritized over education at establishments of higher learning.
“Athletics is not driving the admissions process,” Cunningham said. “We are looking at every process for student-athletes to ensure they are admitting students that can do the work. We do take risks, but we’ve seen it work successfully.”
“We identify at-risk student-athletes in the recruiting process,” said Yow. “We put them on a plan and take care of them… I don’t think anyone here would take somebody they didn’t think could do the work; who would take the opportunity.”
At NC Central, one of many historical black colleges and universities in the area, Wicker-McCree said she faces similar, but different, challenges.
“We have to be creative. We should look at dual enrollment programs to help the students get to where they need to be,” Wicker-McCree said, noting NCCU’s partnership with Durham Technical Community College.
Wicker-McCree and Yow each pointed out that often times, a student gets to college with a learning disability that has never been diagnosed and that the lower levels of education fail them early on.
White pointed to two current Olympic athletes at Duke that have each competed for their country and earned their way into medical school as an example of the system working if the student has the drive.
“It can happen for a student to get an education and be an athlete at a really high level,” he insisted.
Yow and Wicker-Mcree agreed with White’s sentiment, but noted that it boils down to choices.
“Nobody gets to do everything,” Yow said, comparing the schedule of a student-athlete to a common student with a full-time job. “Student-athletes have to make choices.”
Some of those choices, however, are made for the student-athletes. While White dismissed the notion of clustering among student-athlete majors in today’s system, Wicker-McCree pointed out the need to schedule practice time around classes, making the option of participation in a sport and concentration on a specific major increasingly difficult.
CAN THEY SELL WHAT’S THEIRS?
“We are making money, they are not,” said Yow.
It’s a simple statement that is the centerpiece of the national conversation when it comes to the NCAA.
It was argued Thursday that Johnny Manziel is currently profiting from the free marketing he got in college. But would he be who he is today without his offensive line and are those guys benefiting the same?
“It is bigger than any one athlete,” Wicker-McCree said. “It’s about fairness and equality within a team.”
One less-discussed option on the national level was posed by Yow: What if student athletes were able to make money on their likeness and jersey sales, but that money was placed into an escrow account for when they were no longer “amateurs” in the eyes of the NCAA?
Cunningham liked the idea but added, “All the funds in the account should go towards education where they can finish their degree at a later time if necessary.”
Of course a major problem is that it is the retailers and not the student-athletes or the schools that decide which jerseys get produced. As the panel pointed out, that can lead to team morale issues and a true imbalance in the experience.
So then, why can’t a student-athlete sell their own uniform after a season? Cunningham pointed out that that is a fundamental problem that needs to be examined.
“It’s a matter of borrowed versus earned,” Cunningham said. “It is given for use but not sale. The rule is there with the idea in mind, but it needs to be looked at.”
When it comes to pay-for-play models, all four AD’s agreed that the conversations are still too infantile to pinpoint a correct implementation.
White pointed out that a major difficulty lies in the fact that some Division I schools offer 17 sports while others offer 31 thus making the equities hard to calculate.
Yow added that the federal law doesn’t separate revenue versus non-revenue sports when it comes to student-athletes and that can further lead to balance issues.
Taking questions that ranged from cost of attendance to transfer rules to pay-for-play models, athletic directors from the four major Triangle universities agreed that the NCAA system may not be completely broken, but it could use some fixing.
“In the MEAC, we are trying to do more with less,” Wicker-McCree said. “Our schools are not making the millions of dollars but we are still trying to compete with the likes of Duke an others.”
When the conversation concluded, White, Wicker-McCree and Cunningham all agreed that the current NCAA system is the right idea but could use some tweaks. Only Yow said she would change the system.
"The fact is no two institutions are the same," White said.