NC leaders: NCAA is a broken system that nobody wants to change
Posted October 26, 2011
Updated October 27, 2011
Raleigh, N.C. — The current NCAA model does not benefit the student-athlete but nobody is in a hurry to change it according to attorney Robert Orr, former state Supreme Court Justice and current head of the North Carolina Institute for Constitutional Law.
“I don't think the system, as it is now established, can be sustained over time, but there is so much money that the NCAA (brings in) from the universities that are constituent members, that there is this huge unwillingness to undertake the kind of really substantive reforms that need to be undertaken because it might jeopardize the flow of money," Orr said. “(I) think that's the real scandal, that university leaders know the system is broken and let it stay broken. (They) can't legislate (the) problem away.”
The NCAA, a private organization, has come under scrutiny on a national level recently for the way they balance the student-athlete label with their for-profit business model. Orr says that tension is glorified when athletes of marginal or disadvantaged backgrounds are expected to perform within the constraints of a multi-billion dollar system.
Orr posed the scenario of student-athletes getting reprimanded for selling jerseys when retailers, universities and the NCAA itself profit from similar sales.
“It's such a huge problem, and there are such huge amounts of money involved, that it may take the Congress," he said.
Tom Ross, president of the University of North Carolina System, agrees that big-time college programs have issues balancing the academic and athletic aspects of college students due to money.
"I think to the extent that there are problems, it's because there is pressure from the commercial side,” Ross said. “I think there are people who want to come together and look for solutions. What that will look like in the end, I don't know."
Bill Friday, former UNC system president, agrees that the financial aspect of intercollegiate sports is an issue, but argues that with an institution, such as the NCAA, having been created by a conglomerate of institutions, there is a gray area of control.
“There has never been a time when intercollegiate sports (was) in as much trouble as it is right now," Friday said. “(It) has all been a result of huge sums of money.
“If you want to see utter chaos, just take away the NCAA and have nothing. You can't solve a problem by eliminating the NCAA and then standing there empty handed."
Friday also added that the notion of college athletics has become more of a spectacle than a social benefit.
“What's got to come one of these days is the realization that you can't impose an entertainment industry upon an academic enterprise and expect it to work,” he said.
Friday, Ross and Orr all agree that academics need to remain in the forefront of discussions when it comes to the student-athlete experience.
At an NCAA leaders retreat in August, a talking point among presidents, chancellors and athletic directors was raising the bar for eligibility requirements and APR averages.
Critics argue that some student-athletes will be denied the opportunity to better themselves; proponents say the college experience will enhanced.
“The presidents are going to be looking at models that increase that standard that says a student must come in with a higher grade point average in academic courses in order to be eligible as freshman,” said NCAA Vice President for Academic and Membership Affairs Kevin Lennon. “That basically says we want better-prepared students coming to our four-year campuses.”
Orr wonders what will happen to the students who are not as prepared and require the extra help but also are expected to perform on the field.
“You bring in a student who is marginally prepared for university-level work, you give them a physically demanding 20- or 30-hour a week job, it is not unusual for them to really struggle academically," he said.
Orr also argues that accusing players of academic fraud should be approached cautiously because in many cases, the student actually does not know the help is an NCAA violation.
The NCAA says it recognizes certain shortfalls in both financial and academic models as they relate to the student-athlete and is actively pursuing ways to fix them.
Ideas of stipends, multi-year scholarships, increased academic standards, a simplified rule book and a focus on graduation rates are all topics being actively looked at according to Lennon.
“We do recognize we need to some things differently, and there is a clear commitment to doing so,” he said.
WRAL will have live reports from Indianapolis Thursday and Friday where UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp and Director of Athletics Dick Baddour will go before the NCAA Committee on Infractions.