After Penn State scandal, Congress should make NCAA put students, education first
In light of the scandal at Penn State, which reveals how big-time college sports often overwhelm the core values of higher education, Congress should closely examine whether the NCAA is running a not-for-profit enterprise or a commercial entertainment empire.
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Penn State is obviously not the only university that has compromised core values to defend its interests in revenue-driven sports. To become athletically competitive, universities routinely recruit athletes who do not meet minimum admission standards and strip them of their scholarships if they are injured or fail to meet coaches’ expectations. Academic fraud is rampant. Faculty who blow the whistle on such practices are often ostracized and sometimes fired.Skip to next paragraph
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The only way the NCAA will cure the problems endemic to commercialized college sports is by actually following its stated mission of “maintaining athletes as an integral part of the student body and retaining a clear line of demarcation between collegiate and professional sports.” College sports has to keep an eye on the bottom line. But profit maximization is not its mission. That message has been lost in recent decades.
Mr. Emmert, the NCAA president, has already demonstrated his commitment to education-oriented legislation by supporting the reinstatement of multiyear scholarships. However, even though a watered down version of this policy passed the Division 1 Board of Directors, it barely survived a membership override vote. Despite Emmert’s efforts, substantive reforms will only occur if external pressure is brought to bear on the NCAA and the sports powerhouses that dominate its culture.
In 2006, Bill Thomas (R) of California, then chair of the House Committee on Ways and Means asked then-NCAA president, Myles Brand, to justify the NCAA’s and it member institutions’ not-for-profit status. Mr. Brand responded with the usual platitudes about amateurism. Not long after that, Rep. Charles Rangel (D) of New York took over as the committee’s chair and never followed up on the investigation of the NCAA’s tax exemption.
I know of no one, including myself, who wants college sports to lose its tax exemption. But in light of the scandal at Penn State, which reveals how big-time college sports often overwhelm the core values of higher education, it seems only reasonable for the House Ways and Means Committee to closely examine whether the NCAA is running a not-for-profit enterprise or an unrelated business.
Allen Sack, a professor in the College of Business at the University of New Haven, played football at Notre Dame and earned his Ph.D. in Sociology at Penn State. He is the President of the Drake Group, an organization committed to academic integrity in college sports.