NCAA’s reform package is a milestone
by Dan Wolken, USA TODAY Sports
GRAPEVINE, Texas – As college athletics have morphed into a multi-billion dollar enterprise, the organization that runs them has often been criticized for its obsession with enforcing the most insignificant of rules while major scandals go unnoticed or unpunished.
The overregulation of the NCAA was not an accident, but rather rooted in the notion that managing amateur athletics required rigid rules to create an equal playing field, no matter how big the school, how flexible the budget or how deep the tradition.
But with a significant package of reforms passed by the NCAA Division 1 Board of Directors on Saturday, that paradigm no longer applies. The NCAA has all but admitted it can’t ensure an equal playing field, and even if it could, some of the rules that would be required to do so are so inane and impossible to enforce that the return simply isn’t worth the cost. In the end, there aren’t any rules that will put Louisiana-Lafayette on the same competitive plane as LSU.
“There are universities that made investments 100 years ago that, by historical accident in some instances, have set as their role, scope and mission, things that give them competitive advantages in their ability to fund and support ahtletics,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said Saturday. “Michigan has been Michigan for a long time.”
For the average fan, what happened at this NCAA Convention will barely be noticed. But for the NCAA enforcement office and coaching staffs in every major sport, the streamlining of the rule book Emmert spearheaded 18 months ago and got passed Saturday will be a welcome relief.
Several of the 25 changes adopted Saturday are small and fairly obvious. Schools, for instance, can now provide “reasonable entertainment in conjunction with competition or practice,” which means the old joke that athletes could be provided bagels but not cream cheese – yes, that was an actual NCAA rule – no longer applies. And a new rule that will allow athletes to receive “$300 more than actual and necessary expenses” as long as they don’t come from an agent or booster will save a ton of paperwork … [For more on NCAA's passing of reform package is a milestone, click here.]