By Ken Reed

The Drake Group, a national organization of college faculty, released a position statement today that is highly critical of a recent NCAA proposal which, if given formal approval, would allow the five richest conferences (“The Big Five”) in the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision the freedom to make their own rules.

The Drake Group has called for a blue-ribbon commission be created to study the issue.

“Instead of providing cost of attendance scholarship increases and more benefits for all Division I athletes, the Big Five Power grab will result in extraordinary benefits to only those athletes in the richest athletic programs,” said Drake Group President Gerald Gurney, assistant professor of educational leadership and policy studies at the University of Oklahoma.

“This will up the ante in the basketball/football Division I arms race. This concentration of wealth will also make it highly unlikely for lower tier institutions in the Football Bowl Subdivision to compete in the College Football Playoffs and tip the March madness competitive balance in favor of the Big Five Power Conferences.”

The Drake Group argues that pressure will be created on all other Division I institutions to funnel more resources into men’s basketball and football in order to try to remain competitive. These resources could come from increased student fees, elevated institutional fund subsidies, non-revenue sports budgets, or all three.

“The NCAA has demonstrated its inability to solve the financial and ethical problems faced by intercollegiate athletes,” said Drake Group Past President Allen Sack, professor of sport management in the College of Business at the University of New Haven. He added:

“The first priority on the use of significant media revenues should be the provision of full medical coverage and insurance, cost of attendance scholarship increases, an academic trust fund, adequate academic support, especially for those who are academically at-risk, and other benefits that enhance the education, health and welfare of the greatest number of college athletes, not just those at Big Five institutions.”

The Drake Group suggests that college presidents should vote to override the Big Five’s ill-conceived power grab legislation and call for the U.S. secretary of education to ask President Barack Obama to establish a blue-ribbon Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics to explore alternatives that would address economic stability, academic integrity and professionalism issues.

Presidential involvement in intercollegiate athletics is not unprecedented. President Teddy Roosevelt hosted a summit at the White House with college officials to talk about unsportsmanlike behavior and violence on the football field. During the summit he pushed for radical rule changes. Several months later, the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States (the forerunner to the NCAA) was formed and major rule changes were soon implemented.

The Drake Group’s mission is to defend academic integrity in higher education from the corrosive aspects of commercialized college sports.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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