The Locker Room

Not Feeling Presidential

Posted by Lori Schmidt April 22, 2013
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Sports Illustrated’s Andy Staples has a piece today quoting numerous anonymous athletic directors who say they are unhappy with the fact that they are going unheard by the NCAA.

To prove the current tone deafness that exists, the article cites the fact that several high profile pieces of proposed NCAA regulation have recently been shot down. Most notably, some of the suggested deregulation of recruiting and a recommended $2,000 stipend for athletes were overriden.

However, for all the nameless ADs who weighed in, the most interesting quotes were provided by those willing to go on the record. That included NCAA president Mark Emmert, who admitted:

“I think we did make a number of mistakes then that we’re actually in the midst of trying to address right now. I think when we’re moved toward a more presidentially driven decision structure, that’s a good one. But we shoved athletic directors, coaches to a certain extent, commissioners too far to the sides. So we haven’t had enough conversations what policies and procedures mean on the grass‑roots level…I think we have had for some time now a lack of engagement of those folks in the process. I think that’s been a fundamental challenge as we’ve launched on this change agenda.”

Staples also mentions a forum that outgoing chancellor at North Carolina, Holden Thorp, spoke at last week. (It’s a forum that Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany attended, incidentally.)

Thorp’s comments make it clear that athletic directors aren’t the only ones who are perhaps uncomfortable with the current presidential-driven NCAA model.

“You hear all the time that the presidents of the universities have the power to fix this. I don’t agree. We can’t fix the NCAA or the conferences…Either we put the ADs back in charge, and hold them accountable when things don’t work…Or, let’s be honest, and tell everyone when we select [presidents] to run institutions that have big-time sports that athletics is the most important part of the job.”

Presidents were put in the driver’s seat in the late 1990′s with the goal of aligning universities’ academic and athletic priorities. ”It’s almost hard to keep from laughing when you say these things,” Thorp said. “Obviously, (presidential control) hasn’t worked.”

However, in an interesting quirk of timing, CBS also shared a story today regarding NCAA enforcement that quotes Ohio State AD Gene Smith. “With this layered rep form of governance, frankly there’s not a lot of practitioners [athletic directors] in the process,” he said. ”I think that’s a problem. I know that’s being looked at.”

So maybe the question isn’t who should be in charge? Maybe the question is who in the world wants to be?