By Ken Reed

Teddy Roosevelt called a group of college leaders to the White House in 1905 and told them to do something about the vicious nature of the game of football, which was resulting in too many deaths on campus. He strongly urged the college presidents and campus sports leaders in attendance to quickly develop measures to make football safer or he would take stronger action.

As a result, an intercollegiate athletics organization — which would soon evolve into the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), was formed. The primary mission of this association was athlete safety. During the following year, enough safety reforms were implemented by this group to satisfy Roosevelt.

Well, today the NCAA is getting a big fat “F” in the area of safety. Most notably, the NCAA lacks standard return-to-play guidelines following suspected brain injuries. In fact, the NCAA’s entire approach to concussions makes the NFL seem enlightened on the issue.

In addition to safety, the NCAA’s other focus area is supposed to be education. According to NCAA literature, the organization’s objective is “to integrate intercollegiate athletics into higher education so that the educational experience of the student athlete is paramount.”

Clearly, the NCAA behemoth is failing in that regard too, most notably at the NCAA Division I level where football and basketball players have more in common with their NFL and NBA peers than they do with the students on their campuses.

Meanwhile, academic fraud remains an ongoing problem in college athletics. In a scathing indictment of the NCAA, Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins writes:

“The NCAA has exhibited total paralysis in the one case truly in its purview: the broad, years-long academic scandal at North Carolina, in which scores of athletes were kept academically eligible with fake “paper” classes and prearranged grades.”

Instead of protecting the health and welfare of college athletes, along with academic integrity on college campuses, the NCAA is instead being driven by the values of professionalism and commercialization.

As such, argues Jenkins, the NCAA must be dissolved.

There are numerous proposals floating around as to what new structure should replace the NCAA, including one titled “Don’t Reform NCAA – Replace It,” by the Drake Group, a consortium of college professors fighting for academic integrity in college sports.

But whatever structural entity replaces the NCAA, the focus needs to be on the young men and women playing the game, not the desires of the win-at-all-costs and profit-at-all-cost adults who are running the show today.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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