NCAA should drop the facade it runs football
In making a call the other day for the NCAA to crack down on
cheating in college football, former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr
recalled having a conversation with the late NCAA president, Myles
Brand, about the subject.
Carr said Brand told him he didn’t have the authority to do a
lot of things people wanted done.
”Well, the question is, who does?” Carr said.
No one, it seems, and that goes to the heart of what is wrong
with college football today. Give the NCAA a lacrosse championship
to put on and it does fine, but the organization is a sham at best
when it comes to big-money sports, providing little more than a
cover for the big schools and conferences to make even more
If there was any doubt about that, it was answered this week
when the NCAA meekly obliged its Bowl Championship Series masters
by licensing the Fiesta Bowl for postseason play despite
revelations the bowl has served as a virtual ATM over the years for
its former executive director and his many cronies. The NCAA
slapped the Fiesta with one year’s probation, during which time
officials apparently can’t spend any more bowl money on strippers
or golf junkets.
Any further doubt was erased when the same organization that put
the Fiesta on ”probation” told the Justice Department that it had
nothing to do with overseeing postseason play and that the lack of
a playoff system for college football should be directed to those
running the BCS.
You heard right. The organization put in place to control
college athletics admitted it has no control of the showcase of the
biggest sport in college athletics.
That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone who follows
college football. The NCAA has long since abdicated its role in
overseeing the sport, allowing the power conferences and the
marquee universities to come up with whatever schemes they can to
maximize the millions of dollars that flow into their coffers.
And when those dollars are at risk – as they were at the Sugar
Bowl – the NCAA is more than happy to bend its own rules so the BCS
show can go on. Allowing Ohio State’s Terrelle Pryor and his
teammates to play when they were facing suspensions was the
ultimate in hypocrisy for an organization that epitomizes
The NCAA’s claim that it has nothing to do with the bowl system
came in a letter Wednesday from president Mark Emmert in response
to a Justice Department query about possible antitrust violations
in the BCS. Emmert said that since the NCAA doesn’t control the BCS
it would be inappropriate for him to comment on how teams are
selected for the major bowls and the national title game.
In other words, ”Don’t look at us.”
This comes just a week after Emmert talked about how he wanted
to beef up the NCAA’s enforcement staff and start hitting schools
who violate its hybrid amateurism rules with tougher sanctions. The
NCAA has basically relied on schools to turn themselves in for
violations over the years, only to find out – as Carr rightfully
pointed out – that some feel the need to come clean more than
Indeed, Ohio State coach Jim Tressel seemed more than happy to
keep quiet about what he knew was going on with Pryor and others
selling signed jerseys and whatever they could get their hands on
to make a little spending money. It wasn’t until things really went
south that Tressel fessed up and offered to serve a five-game
suspension next season along with his star players.
Even though the NCAA gives the appearance of trying to enforce
rules, it doesn’t even make an effort to corral the schools and
conferences that have hijacked the football bowl system.
With good reason, perhaps. The big schools and conferences are
formidable foes who will fight to the end to keep their cozy cartel
delivering riches by the truckload every year, and Emmert likely
knows he would probably be looking for work elsewhere if he tried
taking them on.
The system works for the big schools and conferences, even if it
is inherently unfair to everyone else. A little controversy is the
price they pay for sweetheart television deals that fuel their
massive athletic programs and make sure their football teams have
the resources to stay dominant for years to come.
Let a player sell a jersey for pocket change, and the NCAA is
all over the student. Let its schools run a cartel that makes
millions while not allowing other schools in, and the NCAA says it
can’t do anything about it.
Maybe it’s time for the NCAA to simply give up the facade.
Either quit pretending it oversees college football or step up and
actually do it.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated
Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org or follow him at