By Ken Reed

The University of Oregon was recently given a slap on the wrist by the NCAA for a variety of NCAA rules violations. Many media observers and fans were shocked by how gently the NCAA dealt with Oregon.

To me, it wasn’t shocking at all. The NCAA is terrified that the big-time schools and their conferences will leave the NCAA and form their own governing organization. If that happens, the NCAA will be left with smaller Division I universities, along with Division II and III schools. The NCAA honchos would lose a lot of power and money. For their part, the big-time athletic programs in the Big Five conferences — Pac 12, Big Ten, Big 12, ACC, and SEC — are tired of dealing with the rules and regulations they see as a nuisance to their mission of running major sports entertainment enterprises. They also are tiring of having their fate impacted by votes from Division II and Division III NCAA members.

In recent months, our major college sports universities have been more brazen in their public acknowledgments that their athletic departments are indeed big-time businesses. The Big Five conferences are run by shrewd business executives, not educators or even athletic administrators. And the hot new trend in big-time college sports is for schools to can their traditional athletic directors in favor of business execs from other industries who have excellent fundraising skills.

The New York TimesJoe Nocera recently wrote a column talking about how the vast majority of college presidents are ill-equipped to run the massive sports entertainment enterprises on their campuses. He argues persuasively that it’s time to stop the charade. Nocera writes:

“We could just finally be done with it: acknowledge that big-time college sports is a serious business that has to be managed by business executives who have an expertise in sports management. Let this new breed of athletic directors maximize revenues to their hearts’ content, but create some real separation between the teams and the universities, and stop pretending they have any ‘educational’ value. (And while we’re at it, pay the players.) And let college presidents get back to what they actually know how to do: run their universities.”

It’s going to happen. It’s just a matter of when.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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