AMERICAN college presidents have taken a major step toward their goal of regaining control of campus athletics. If provisions adopted by the convention of the National Collegiate Athletic Association late last week are strictly adhered to, they will go a long way toward restoring integrity and a sense of proportion to collegiate athletics, which in many universities in recent years have operated outside the supervision of the administration. Such a change is as needed as it is overdue.
We do not share the cynical view that athletic improprieties and overemphasis have been ingrained in some American colleges for so long that they cannot be rooted out. Yet it will require persistent attention by college presidents and the NCAA to do the job.
College presidents will have to find the time as well as inclination to scrutinize athletic programs, in order to gain full control.
The NCAA must be rigorous in ferreting out violations, probing charges, and levying punishment on the guilty; laxity would result in business-as-usual.
The sordid state of athletics has been amply demonstrated by a parade of accusations in recent months, from point shaving at Tulane to recruiting violations at several colleges to news that in the past 12 years only four basketball players have been graduated by perennial power Memphis State.
The problems were most evident at large institutions that have sought national sports power and money from lucrative TV contracts; yet incidents in which athletics assumed an exaggerated importance have existed even in relatively pristine smaller colleges.
Such improprieties have no place on a college campus, and they are at variance with everything a college education stands for.
In the past, isolated college presidents or faculty members have protested against athletic overemphasis, but their calls for reform have gone largely unheeded. The new round of scandals, however, motivated presidents to demand action. They drafted a series of appropriate steps that would give them control of athletic budgets and for the first time would provide powerful sanctions for colleges and coaches that violate rules on recruiting and other aspects of intercollegiate athletics.
But rule-twisting alumni booster clubs and a win-at-all-costs mentality are powerfully entrenched at some universities. Rooting out negative influences will not be easy: The struggle now shifts to the enforcement arena.