More than a year ago and with more than a bit of fanfare, Dr. Myles Brand announced the formation of an NCAA task force to study ways to reshape the
landscape of college athletics. The task force has been at work studying financial issues, academics, relations between athletes and groups outside
the athletic department (read: boosters) and student-athlete well-being. For more than a year now, these folks have been at work and someone must
have asked Dr. Brand what they have been up to and when there might be some noticeable output because earlier in the week he said he hoped to be able
to implement some reforms. That's when the clarity ended and the typical NCAA parsing of the English language began.
Not surprisingly, Dr. Brand said that the task force - made up of university presidents and administrators - reaffirmed the importance of presidential
leadership. I suspect they also endorse fair play, plentiful oxygen, liberty and justice for all. Said Dr. Brand, 'All we've done is set the agenda
for reform for the next five to seven years. We've decided the directions we want to go in and why. Now starting in the Fall, we'll roll up our
sleeves and figure out how to get it done.' Based on that statement, I don't think it is too much of a stretch here to say that Dr. Brand and the
NCAA machinery have set the stage here for some actions that will alter the way that college athletics happen and changes will start to happen soon.
Or maybe not; Dr. Brand also said the average fan should expect no drastic changes as a result of the task force's work. Huh?
Let's see; the future course of college athletics with respect to non-trivial matters such as finances, academics, booster involvement and athletes'
health/safety/living conditions will go in new and presumably more positive directions and fans won't notice anything? If that's clear to you, then
maybe you can put a concise explanation together to join two more of Dr. Brand's recent utterances:
'A lot of things are good about college athletics; a lot of things work. We're trying to fix the problems and improve forward momentum.'
'There is a continued appetite for reform by the presidents in intercollegiate athletics including but beyond academic reform.'
And if both of those sentences have real meaning, why has this task force taken more than a year to get where it is and why will the implementation of
their actions be hard to notice?
Now put that all of that rhetorical gas in juxtaposition with some other news regarding the NCAA that hit the wires in the past week. The NCAA
Postseason Football Licensing Subcommittee just got applications for four new bowl games. That's right; last year there were 28 bowl games and soon
there could be 32 bowl games. One is the BCS Championship Game; that is a shoo-in for approval. The other three need to show that they can guarantee
a payout of $750K before the process can continue. Please note here how the academic impact on the players and the student-athlete's well-being are
not first and foremost in the winnowing process; the applicants first have to show that they have cash money in hand.
Where will these new bowl games be? Check this out:
The New Mexico Bowl will happen in Albuquerque and will match teams from the Mountain West Conference and the WAC.
The International Bowl will happen in Toronto and will match teams from the Big East and the MAC.
The Birmingham Bowl - well it's pretty clear where that will happen - will match teams from CUSA and the Big East.
The proliferation of bowls is bad enough since there are already far too many of them. What is worse is that ESPN Regional will own two of the bowl
games (New Mexico and Birmingham) meaning that ESPN will own the game it is televising. Please remember this the next time some journalist climbs on
a soapbox and decries the journalistic outlet making news as opposed to reporting the news.
The Toronto group did not gain accreditation last year but ESPN says that things have been settled with the organizing group there and the money is in
place now. An ESPN weenie said that these new games solve a problem because 'last year, several of those conferences had bowl eligible teams that did
not get bowl bids.' Excuse me, when you set the bar as low as the NCAA has for 'bowl eligible', there is a huge chasm left between 'bowl eligible'
and 'bowl deserving'. Remember, a team is 'bowl eligible' with a 6-5 record and one win can - under certain circumstances - come at the expense of a
team not in Division 1A. With schedules expanding this year to 12 games, teams can be 6-6 and still make it to bowl games. I can see the match-ups
now with the seventh place team from the Big East squaring off against the sixth place finisher in the MAC. The game will stink, but none of the
mascots will be 'offensive'...
Another sign that the NCAA is about money and all the rest is window dressing came recently when the NCAA quietly got involved in the process to get
the Indianapolis Colts a new stadium in Indy. As part of the incentive for the city fathers to come up with the money to build Lucas Oil Stadium, the
NCAA promised that there would be one major NCAA event there each year and it shoved another NCAA Final Four into Indy in 2010. People at this year's
event in the 'old stadium' saw the game in a facility that had 43,000 seats and about 20,000 of them were terrible. In 2010, the new facility will
seat 70,000 for basketball; so you can expect approximately 45,000 of them to be horrendous. This is what the NCAA calls progress; hopefully this is
not a major part of the directions that the NCAA has decided they want to go in thanks to the cracker-jack task force that is toiling away...
In case you didn't know it, April is National Poetry Month. Hopefully, someone used some of the time this month to find a word that rhymes with
'poetry'. Or not...
Finally, here is an item from Greg Cote in yesterday's Miami Herald:
'This just in. Brett Favre has scheduled a news conference to announce he has canceled a news conference at which he was expected to reveal he had
not yet made up his mind whether to retire.'
But don't get me wrong, I love sports... ... ...