Following is the full text of NCAA President Myles Brand’s State of the Association speech entitled, “The Principles of Intercollegiate Athletics.” Brand delivered his remarks during the January 7 opening business session of the 2006 NCAA Convention in
We all have heard the story.
The 1905 football season resulted in 18 deaths and 149 serious injuries, at a time when there were far fewer college teams playing. The public was outraged, and rightly so.
President Theodore Roosevelt summoned the leadership of Harvard,
Fix it or end it, he said.
After some wrangling by the sports community, Henry MacCraken, chancellor of
Today, with this opening business session, the NCAA begins its Centennial celebration. Our first century is in the books.
Just to put the NCAA Centennial in perspective, consider these other birth dates.
Several key ideas were embodied in the founding of the NCAA, which persist today. The games are college athletics events, played under the auspices of
Those were the bedrock principles of 1906, and they are the bedrock principles of 2006.
I will not try to summarize the rich and complex history of college sports over the 100 years since the founding of the NCAA. Suffice it to say that its evolution took many turns, often because of a changing external environment, but sometimes because of power struggles within the college sports community.
During this period, one central point became clear. Sports, especially college sports, both shape and are shaped by American culture. Who we are as Americans, our attitudes and ambitions, our beliefs and interests, are influenced by the role of sports in society. We are the only country in the world that integrates sports with education at the secondary and collegiate levels. With the growth of women’s sports, and with the immense popularity of sports for the broadcast media, the competitive framework of sports pervades virtually all that we do.
Some applaud the infusion of sports in our culture; others decry it; and still others barely notice. But the fact of the matter is that what began 100 years ago in the marriage of sports with college, is as American and as celebrated by Americans as apple pie and the Fourth of July.
Given the relationship between sports and culture, it behooves us to get it right. The NCAA — the voice and conscience of college sports — has a distinctive obligation for normative leadership; leadership that is value-based.
The NCAA, of course, does not have the luxury to redesign the enterprise from scratch. We inherit the history of college sports, and we represent those who are engaged in it — coaches and administrators, certainly — but most especially those who participate, the student-athletes. We must all be singularly aware that college sports does not exist in vacuum, a Platonic heaven, so to speak, uninfluenced by the dynamics of the real world. The popularity of college sports, with its attendant serious financial interests, affects what we can and should do.
We need to better understand what we have wrought. To be the voice and conscience of college sports, to be true to the intent of those in our universities who founded our organization and continue to provide leadership, and yet to be appropriately pragmatic, we need a conceptual framework for college sports that is aspirational, value-based, but realistic. And a Centennial is an appropriate milestone at which to reaffirm the underlying structure. I have been calling this framework “The Collegiate Model of Athletics.”
In the past, I have tried to differentiate the collegiate model from other models. Today I will try to articulate its central principles. Armed with this framework, we can begin to look ahead to the future of intercollegiate athletics, how we might be affected by it and how we might influence its directions. Clearly, there are forces beyond our control that affect intercollegiate athletics in substantive ways; but we are not without influence, and we must exercise that influence with forethought and care.
There are three key principles that constitute the collegiate model, namely ones that pertain to the participants, the contests, and the enterprise as a whole.
* Principle No. 1 — Those who participate in intercollegiate athletics are to be students attending a university or college.
* Principle No. 2 — Intercollegiate athletics contests are to be fair, conducted with integrity, and the safety and well-being of those who participate are paramount.
* Principle No. 3 — Intercollegiate athletics is to be wholly embedded in universities and colleges.
These first principles — these axioms — should dictate the fundamental nature of college sports. I will examine them in detail.
The collegiate model rests on the principle that those who participate are university and college students. It is a student-centered enterprise. Student-athletes come first. This is the heart of the matter.
Since the participants in college sports are students — individuals whose first order of business is acquiring an education — their academic success is of central importance. You have all heard our refrain, “There are more than 360,000 student-athletes, and almost all of them will go pro in something other than sports.” Those who participate in our games are the future doctors, lawyers, teachers, business people and elected officials. They are future family members and community leaders. A few will play professional sports; but they, too, should receive an education from our fine universities and colleges. The fact of the matter is that a college education is the best preparation for a successful, fulfilling, happy life, and acquiring that education should be primary.
Understanding the importance of education in student-athletes’ lives, presidents, conference commissioners, directors of athletics, coaches, faculty representatives and athletics administrators have committed themselves to providing genuine opportunities to college athletes to receive an education. While that has no doubt been a goal in the past, there is a recent redoubling of effort. The result has been nothing less han the beginning of a dramatic reform The goals of this comprehensive reform effort have been to bring to campus freshmen who are better prepared to do college level work while increasing access to higher education, and to move enrolled student-athletes toward a degree — not just keep them eligible.
The central idea of this academic reform in Division I is to emphasize the importance of team academic performance, thereby involving both the leadership of coaches and peer pressure. The details of these reform efforts have been well documented, and I will not take the time to reiterate them here. The new standards, new metrics and new sanctions will improve academic performances across all divisions and all sports. At the same time, anyone who has thought seriously about changing behavior understands that there must also be positive reinforcements. The Division I Committee on Academic Performance is in the process of detailing the procedures for sanctions and articulating a program of incentives.
Fairness in implementation of sanctions requires a carefully nuanced set of specific rules and a timely waiver process. There is too much variability among sports and institutions, and too many special circumstances for there to be only a few simple, high-level rules. The committee, the NCAA staff and Board of Directors are working to ensure that the waivers for specific cases and exceptions to the general rules do not undermine the goals of this academic reform.
Divisions II and III are engaged in similar reform efforts with the common goal to ensure that every student-athlete in every sport has a genuine opportunity for a full and fine college education. In athletics, good enough is never good enough. Coaches and student-athletes alike strive to maximize their athletics performance. Similarly, we want every student-athlete to realize his or her full academic potential. Good enough academically also fails to be good enough. Given the discipline, the motivation to achieve, and the level of academic support, we expect — and student-athletes should expect of themselves — high levels of academic performance.
The academic-reform movement should not only raise the floor, but also raise the level of academic performance for all student-athletes. Increasing academic performance will continue to be an emphasis for our future.
There is another aspect of the first principle — the participant — that deserves attention as we move into our second century. Critics of college sports never tire of asking why we do not pay college athletes. Blogs and talk radio almost assume that college athletes should be paid — if not every athlete, then at least those stars who attract thousands to the stadiums and millions to televised games.
Sometimes, in response, pragmatic issues are brought forward. Can we legally, or in practice, pay only some of the participants? Does, for example, Title IX raise the potential for litigation? Do universities have the funds to do so, given that the large majority of universities already are subsidizing intercollegiate athletics?
Though these pragmatic issues raise problems for compensating college athletes, they can, I presume, be resolved if we wanted to compensate participants.
The fundamental reason we do not pay student-athletes to play is because they are students. This commitment is captured in the first principle of the collegiate model. The participants in intercollegiate athletics are students. They are not, in their roles as athletes, employees of the university. They are students who participate in athletics as part of their educational experience. This is the heart of the enterprise.
Today’s iteration of intercollegiate athletics often is criticized for having abandoned the concept of amateurism to commercialism and big paychecks, while failing to include student-athletes in the perceived financial bonanza. The problem is we have romanticized the concept of amateurism as an unobtainable cross between its roots in the class distinctions of 19th century England, where sport was to be reserved for those whose wealth permitted participation as a leisure activity, and a halcyon ideal that college sports can operate without commercial support and indifferent to the realities of a modern business model.
I will address this latter point in greater detail in a moment, but in the end, the best way to articulate the collegiate model is to emphasize the initial principle, that those who participate in college sports are regular students. Anything else is professional sports.
The second principle of the collegiate model pertains to the contests, that is, the games and competitions. Tracing back our roots to the founding of the NCAA, these contests must respect the health and well-being of the students who participate. No more flying-wedge formations, or their modern-day equivalents. In addition, these contests must also demonstrate integrity. They must be fair.
These are the two central values underlying the second principle: student-athlete well-being and integrity.
The integrity of the game requires, to use a metaphor, a level playing field. That means no team or individual participant is permitted an unfair advantage. It is the skill, strategy and hard work of the team and each player that determines the victory. Rules must be established to ensure fairness and they must be enforced.
The NCAA has the key role in establishing and enforcing the rules. And by the NCAA, I mean the Association. Rules are set not by the NCAA staff, but by representatives of the membership.
Unfortunately, to ensure that no one receives a perceived advantage, whether or not it is an actual advantage, rules have proliferated and become complex. Member representatives, not to mention the media and the public, complain about the proliferation and complexity of the rules. But then these same member representatives spend innumerable hours setting new rules. This year alone Division I has well over 100 new rules in progress — each put forward by the membership.
Critics argue that personal responsibility should reign, and most of the rules, and the rules-making process, should be eliminated. But the problem is that some of those engaged in college sports do not always trust each other to act with self-restraint and not take advantage of the situation for their own benefit. Their trust has been diminished, frankly, by the lessons of experience.
Human nature being what it is, I do not think that there will be, or can be, an agreement among all parties to eliminate or even greatly simplify the rules and trust all parties to act responsibly. Nonetheless, improvement of the current level of rule prolongation is possible. Over the next few years, let us all think carefully how best to delimit rule making and to build the underlying trust that is necessary for integrity.
The NCAA staff has worked diligently to be more flexible and considerate in the application of its rules when they are broken inadvertently and when they do not create major competitive advantages. We have been particularly attentive to giving student-athletes the benefit of the doubt when they are not at fault or when their actions are inadvertent.
However, in the case of major infractions, we will be “tough as nails.” The NCAA has nearly doubled the number of enforcement investigators and we decreased by half the average time it takes us to develop major infraction cases. The national office is completing an extensive external review of our infractions processes. This review, which will be made public shortly, will confirm our overall approach, while recommending a number of changes to ensure quality control.
The college athletics enterprise
The third principle that defines the collegiate model concerns the enterprise as a whole. The central point is that intercollegiate athletics is embedded, is part of, the university. That is the most fundamental principle of the collegiate model. Everything else rests on it.
One critical consequence of this principle is that intercollegiate athletics inherits its values from the university. The same values that underlie the modern American university and college ought to underlie their athletics programs.
Our universities take pride in being meritocracies in which success depends on hard work and natural ability, and not on factors such as race, gender, religion or ethnic background. Universities are places where each and every person is to be respected. This ideal is not always recognized, not to mention adopted in our society — certainly not historically, and not today. Universities take it upon themselves not only to educate future generations to this ideal, but to promote it and exemplify it on campus, and that should, of course, include the athletics department.
We expect merit will determine who will play and who will lead. Coaches put the best players on the floor, independently of race and ethnic background. But coaches and athletics administrators themselves are not always selected, it would appear, entirely on their merits.
Though there has been some modest recent progress, there is an intolerable lack of head football coaches who are African-Americans in Division I, II and III, including especially the high-profile Division I-A level. There is an egregious lack of women and minority athletics directors and conference commissioners in all divisions. While I do not have all the answers to this frustrating problem, it is clear that we must do a better job in recruiting and selecting persons to these leadership positions.
Diversity and inclusion are values of the university. They also must be the values and practices of intercollegiate athletics programs.
The Black Coaches Association (BCA) has created an annual report card to assess the openness and fairness in the hiring process. After two years’ data, it is clear that some schools do considerably better than others during the search process. I support the efforts of the BCA to change the means by which coaches are selected. I support, too, in the strongest way, the efforts by a number of groups, both inside and outside the NCAA, who emphasize the vital importance that women gain opportunities for leadership positions in col lege athletics.
To better address these issues in the membership, the NCAA recently created the office of diversity and inclusion. Over the next several years, we can expect that office to identify ways in which the NCAA can better assist universities in the hiring of women and people of color into leadership positions and to prepare those who in the future will move into these positions. But we also must produce an inclusive climate that seeks out divergent opinions and experiences that we go beyond a “head-count exercise” and get to the real goal — full involvement in the decision-making process.
As we identify specific barriers to success for women and people of color to leadership positions, we will take appropriate steps to correct the problem. For example, women face difficulty in balancing work and home responsibilities. I am pleased to announce that we are appointing a task force to address this issue of balancing work and home responsibilities for women athletics administrators and coaches. We anticipate productive recommendations from this task force in the near future.
Title IX has been influential in opening up post-baccalaureate education to women in the professions, including medicine, law and business. As we all know, this federal law also applies to college athletics. While there has been good progress in increasing the participation rate of women in college sports — five-fold since its passage in 1972 — much remains to be accomplished. Young women still do not have the same proportion of participation opportunities as young men.
As I have said in the past, Title IX is one of the most important pieces of civil-rights legislation in the second half of the 20th century affecting higher education. We must — all of us — do all that we possibly can to protect Title IX from those who seek to weaken or destroy it, and to advocate for it to the very best of our ability.
In the university, the lead decision-maker, under the oversight of the institution’s board, is the president or chancellor. By extension, the lead decision-makers of the membership-driven NCAA are the university and college presidents.
The exercise of presidential leadership has varied over the history of the Association. But starting in the 1990s, and encouraged by a seminal report of the Knight Commission, presidents became again more involved in the direction of the NCAA.
This change of role for the presidents is having some effects on the NCAA governance systems. In Division III, it has resulted in a set of academic reforms, with some push back from others who do not share the presidents’ perspective. In Division II, it has led to a reframing of the mission of the division, driven by 140 of the division’s presidents who came together in a summit last June. In Division I, the result has been some minor changes in the way new legislation is processed, and, perhaps, a sense that some governance restructuring is warranted. The overall goal in any such governance change is to ensure that the presidents are adequately informed by the expert and experienced members of the athletics community in making their decisions.
The Division I presidents have certainly been active in academic reform. To effect strategic directions in complementary areas, I initiated a task force, consisting of nearly 50 presidents and chancellors.
The Division I Presidential Task Force on the Future of Intercollegiate Athletics was created to bring presidential leadership to important strategic issues. This task force and similar bodies do not pass legislation — that remains within the purview of the governance bodies; rather, they recommend future directions for action. These task forces help set the agenda. In the case of the Division I Presidential Task Force, that discussion already has begun. In fact, at this Convention, the several subcommittees of the task force are presenting their early and preliminary findings to obtain feedback before taking the next steps.
Let me return to one final major issue that pertains to the third principle of the collegiate model, namely the underlying financial structure of intercollegiate athletics. There is significant misunderstanding not only of the financial model for athletics, but how it mirrors the approach for the rest of higher education.
Despite differences among the divisions in grants-in-aid, fan bases and expenditure levels, and despite variations within divisions among conferences and institutions within conferences, the underlying business plan for all athletics programs is basically the same. That business plan, moreover, is basically the same as the university as a whole.
It is this: Universities attempt to maximize their revenues and redistribute those resources according to their educational mission. Universities are nonprofit corporations, and as such, they do not generate profits for private owners or shareholders. But they do have an obligation to generate significant amounts of revenue to pursue their mission.
The sources of revenues for universities are primarily federal funds, and for public universities, state funds; student tuition and fees; sale of services, such as room and board; philanthropic gifts and earnings from them; and sometimes corporate gifts and collaborations. It is critical to note that those areas that generate revenue are not necessarily the ones that spend it. As an old philosophy professor, I recognized the fact that my department expended more revenue than it generated through student enrollment. I was well aware that the graduate program depended not only on undergraduate tuition, but also on monies generated by other areas, such as service courses in English, math and the social sciences. The basic business plan for the university is one of massive redistribution of revenues on the basis of the institution’s mission and strategic directions. There is nothing wrong with this financial approach; indeed, without it, the modern, comprehensive university, as we know it, could not exist.
On a smaller but similar scale, the business plan for the athletics department mirrors that of the university. Revenue is maximized to meet the mission and strategic emphasis of the department. Athletics departments accrue far more revenue, as a proportion of their budget, from sales of tickets and media rights than the rest of the university. In Divisions I and II, tuition cost is an athletics department expenditure in that it is paid into the general university fund rather than being a revenue source. In almost every case, the athletics department receives some subsidy from the university, either directly or indirectly through student fees or relief from some costs. But generally speaking, there is no difference in the business plan between the athletics department and the university. Revenues from all sources are redistributed to provide participation opportunities in a broad range of sports.
In Division I, the revenue sports — most often only football and men’s basketball — generate resources that are needed to conduct all the other sports in the program. The goal is to maximize the number of student-athletes participating at a competitive level across sports. That is the goal because athletics participation enhances the educational experience of students, and the institution’s goal is to provide the best educational experience to the greatest number of enrolled students.
That is critical to understanding the relationship of athletics to higher education, and it bears repeating. We want to maximize the number of student-athletes competing at a competitive level, and we do this because athletics participation enhances the educational experience and enhancing the educational experience of students is the goal of higher education. That is the collegiate model of athletics.
This is the reason that divisions have requirements for a minimum number of sports, rather then simply permitting institutions to mount only the one or two revenue sports.
Let me put it provocatively. Athletics, like the university as a whole, seeks to maximize revenues. In this respect, it has an obligation to conduct its revenue-generating activities in a productive and sound business-like manner. Anything less would be incompetence at best and malfeasance at worst. That is, on the revenue side, the in-put side, athletics, like the university itself, must follow the best business practices. On the expenditure side, the out-put side, as it were, athletics must follow its nonprofit mission. Like the university as a whole, athletics must maximize the best experiences of the students, including maximizing the number of participation opportunities.
None of this should be surprising. In the case of professional sports, there also is an attempt to maximize revenues, for example through ticket and media rights sales. But on the out-put side, the mission of professional sports is to maximize the bottom line, to maximize profits for the owners. Professional sports has no obligation to redistribute revenues for other purposes, no matter the social value of those purposes — in fact, it has a prima facie obligation not to redistribute revenues.
So while intercollegiate athletics is often criticized for looking like professional sports on the in-put side — generating revenue — it is rarely understood that intercollegiate athletics and higher education behave like classic nonprofits on the out-put side in the way they redistribute those revenues to support their missions. The business of college sports is not a necessary evil; rather, it is a proper part of the overall enterprise.
There are cautionary tales to consider and danger of a different kind lurking. We must not let the interest in the “business” of college sports become so alluring or enticing that it diverts us from the primary purpose of intercollegiate athletics — providing athletics opportunities for students that enhance their academic experience. We must never lose sight of the academic purpose while we are conducting the necessary business of college sports.
The third principle, however, places a crucial constraint on how an athletics department functions in generating revenues. By being embedded in institutions of higher education, intercollegiate athletics departments inherit their values from their universities. The business activities of the athletics department must be informed and be in conformity with the values of the university, and higher education in general.
Commercial activity, meaning, for example, the sale of broadcast rights and logo licensing, is not only acceptable, but mandated by the business plan, provided that it is done so in a way that fully respects the underlying principles of the university. Instances in which advertising is offensive, in which it is crass or overwhelming, are incompatible with these values. But commercialism per se is not. It depends entirely on how the commercial activity is conducted.
utions in the conduct of intercollegiate athletics, and that includes carrying out commercial activity. For example, on behalf of its members, the NCAA negotiates and manages broadcast media contracts for its postseason championships. The NCAA has an obligation, derived from its members, to maximize the revenue from these contracts and to manage them following the best business practices.
In the past, and indeed currently, there is some ambivalence about business issues. To some extent, it is felt that it is improper, not quite right, for the NCAA to be engaged in business activity. Amateur sports should be above all that. Athletics departments need the revenue, but working too hard to generate revenue somehow taints the purity of college sports.
Nonsense! This type of thinking is both a misinterpretation and a misapplication of amateurism. “Amateur” defines the participants, not the enterprise.
It is the obligation of the NCAA to maximize revenues for its members, provided of course that that business activity is informed by the values of higher education. Athletics directors and conference commissioners are fully aware of this NCAA obligation, and work to support it. For they know that it takes revenue to run a successful athletics program. We should not be ambivalent about doing the business of college sports. We should do it well, but always in conformity with the principles of higher education.
The national office is undertaking strategic steps to assure that the business activities are conducted according to these best practices. To do so, it will require the national office to organize itself somewhat differently. For example, the timeliness needed to be successful in a business environment sometimes exceeds the NCAA’s ability to act through its standard processes. We will need to create more flexibility in operational decisions to be successful in this arena. Of course, and again, the controlling factor in all that is undertaken to enhance revenue is that decisions and actions are informed by those values most important to higher education.
The men’s National Invitational Tournaments — the NIT — is a recent example of this strategic approach. As a means toward the legal settlement and with the objective of developing a revenue-producing center, the NCAA purchased the tournaments. With the approval of the Executive Committee, a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) was created to operate the NITs. The NCAA, through the Executive Committee, has oversight and the LLC financial accountability will be included within the NCAA’s normal budgetary processes. But this structure provides the flexibility required to meet the property’s cost and over time to return net revenues.
It is difficult to predict other steps that will be necessary to enhance revenue generation. But all such steps will always be value-based and under the oversight of the appropriate NCAA governing body. Let us end the ambivalence and do the best job we can developing revenue for our athletics departments.
Equal attention, at a minimum, must be given to the expenditure side. If expenditures increase more rapidly than revenues in athletics, then no matter how hard we work on the revenue side, serious problems cannot be avoided. The underlying problem is that in Division I over the past several years, on average, the rate of expenditures in athletics has been increasing times the rate of expenditures of the general university. That is not a long-term sustainable approach. These problems mean that the universities will have to increase its subsidy to athletics. Some subsidy, in almost all cases, is required, and that is acceptable. But the greater the subsidy, the less funding is available for core academic activities of the university. Continued growth of athletics department budgets is fully appropriate, but the rate of growth needs to be moderated in many cases. Issues surrounding athletics expenditures in Division I are the subject of a subcommittee of the Presidential Task Force.
The key take-away point is that we need to follow the best financial practices on both the revenue and expenditure sides. The immediate goal is to identify those best practices and articulate them in a way that will assist our members in managing the enterprise.
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Ours is an awesome and grand trust — yours and mine, and everyone engaged in intercollegiate athletics. We are trusted with the future of college sports. One hundred years ago, President Roosevelt set us on our course. These 100 years are a prelude for the future. We must build on our past successes and eschew repeating our failures.
The future will no doubt hold new challenges. For the most part, we cannot predict what these challenges will be. While we can already sense that new media will cause us to look differently on how we present our games to fans, and that the next generations of students will have different perspectives and attitudes from today’s student-athletes, that only scratches the surface.
The future is unknown because it is not fixed. To a significant extent, the future is open, and we have the ability to influence and shape it. What will happen is, in part, up to us. What we do now and how we react to changing events and conditions determines what the future will be for intercollegiate athletics. The trust we have entails an obligation to create the best future.
Of this, I am certain: We must be guided by the three principles fundamental to collegiate athletics. The student-athlete is to be at the center of all that we do. The participants of intercollegiate athletics are students enrolled in our universities and colleges. The contests in which they compete are to be safe and undertaken with integrity. And intercollegiate athletics is to be embedded into the mission of higher education on each of our campuses, and within the NCAA. The values of higher education are to be the values of intercollegiate athletics.
Ours is indeed an awesome and grand trust. We accept it knowingly and with pride. This trust carries the obligation to act on the basis of our values, the values of higher education. This trust binds us all together, and together we will protect, build and celebrate intercollegiate athletics.
This trust, too, must lead us to recognize that at the very core of intercollegiate athletics is the student-athlete. Let us celebrate all the participants, the literally millions and millions of young women and men who played, now play and will play in our athletics contests and who attend our institutions of higher learning. Cheers to all of them, past, present and future.
Let’s celebrate the student-athlete!