The retreat for college presidents, athletic directors and other "stakeholders" in college athletics, set up by current NCAA President Mark Emmert, is certainly not a new idea or novel concept. Such meetings have been held with similar urgency since Palmer Pierce sat in Emmert's seat when the NCAA was born in 1905. And similar calls for change have been heard since before the prohibition of football's flying wedge, and in every decade since.
The same laments can be heard now that were heard in 1905, or when the Carnegie Foundation Report was issued in 1930, or at any other period of challenge for the NCAA. One could easily read a quote from any NCAA president in any decade in the last 10 and not be able to tell from which decade it came. It would all sound exactly the same.
What will make this latest urgent meeting different from all the other urgent meetings of the past? With over 50 presidents, athletic directors and other representatives in attendance, the truth is, probably very little should be expected to be accomplished. Emmert has said that "incremental change" in college athletics is not sufficient to meet the current challenges. With such a large group of divergent interests in attendance, one wonders what other kind of change can be accomplished in just two days.
In my judgment, college presidents have been largely ineffective in managing intercollegiate athletics since taking over the enterprise in the mid-1980s. The driving force behind this call for change is fear, and that fear is very real. Unless the NCAA membership can come up with a more fair and reasonable manner in which to regulate the enterprise, there exists a very real possibility that the revenue drivers of the NCAA could decide to go their own way and start their own organization. Such talk was a pipe dream years ago, but it is now seems a plausible possibility out into the future.
Here are a few suggestions for those at the retreat to consider:
Identify exact issues and problems: In order to find solutions and implement change, the issues requiring action need to be identified and prioritized. If this retreat is simply a vehicle for presidents to give speeches, this will be yet another waste of time and money. This retreat needs to enumerate the exact issues and problems that need to be addressed, and precisely why they need to be addressed.
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