The NCAA is under fire from a number of directions, and it's past time. This institution has stiffed athletes and protected colleges for far too long.
On Monday in Oakland, a lawsuit finally got underway that former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon and others filed five years ago. It alleges that the NCAA made billions while illegally preventing players from profiting from their own images in TV broadcasts, games and video games.
Last week, Rashad McCants, a member of the 2004-05 NCAA championship North Carolina basketball team, said he was given A's and put on the dean's list despite seldom going to class. In an ESPN “Outside the Lines” interview, he showed a sample of his work, a supposed report which consisted of one paragraph. He got an A- for it.
The coach, Roy Williams, claimed he knew nothing of this, but as McCants pointed out, coaches routinely check on what athletes are doing in class to make certain they're eligible to play.
Meanwhile, Northwestern athletes have voted on a proposal to join a union (the results are sealed for the moment) and Pac-12 chancellors have called for an overall change in collegiate athletics.
There have been abuses for a very long time. The “two-track” system of shuttling athletes who are not good students into a weak academic program which keeps them eligible without educating them has long been in place, even at some good schools. When Jim Harbaugh was named coach at Stanford, he said his alma mater, Michigan, was one of those schools, which I wrote about in a 2007 San Francisco Examiner column.
My own school, Cal, doesn't exactly have a clean record. In the early '70s, Cal was put on probation because somebody else, apparently an assistant football coach, took the SAT for Isaac Curtis. Even with squeaky-clean Tom Holmoe as the coach, two receivers were given passing grades for classes they didn't attend — and Cal was on probation again for a year.
Meanwhile, the NCAA let Penn State off with minor punishment after the awful Jerry Sandusky scandal, which was covered up by the school and the sainted Joe Paterno for a long time.
Obviously, this system can no longer sustain itself. The Pac-12 chancellors have called for a thorough examination and even made some suggestions. But the schools who are consistently successful, especially in football, are not likely to accept the sweeping change that is necessary.
So, ultimately this system is going to come crashing down. One solution might be for the top football schools, especially those in the South, to just declare that their football programs are professional and disassociate themselves from the NCAA. That would enable them to pay their athletes and no longer pretend that they're actually students.
Other schools might go to the Ivy League model, dropping athletic scholarships while still providing financial help for deserving students, including athletes. That's also the UC Davis model.
That's hardly the perfect solution, but if you have a better one, I'd love to hear from you. So would the NCAA.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at email@example.com.