Not long after the recruiting scandal broke at the University of Colorado earlier this year, there were gasps and calls for actions in the hallowed hallways of the NCAA offices in Indianapolis. And there should have been. It's no laughing matter when college women are accusing athletes and prospective athletes of sexual assault. That should have been a call for action--at the University of Colorado.
But NCAA president Myles Brand, in his never-ending quest to destroy college athletics as we know it, immediately put out a call for major changes in the way athletes are recruited nationwide. A task force on recruiting was formed to come up with reforms.
An NCAA press release proudly says that "NCAA president Myles Brand created the task force in February following the national attention given to the alleged use of alcohol and sex in the recruiting of student-athletes at major universities."
In reality, this is all about the scandal at Colorado and the shenanigans of Willie Williams, who had more arrests than touchdowns when he signed with Miami. For years, those who would bring down college athletics have made the assumption that if something bad is happening at one school, it must be happening everywhere. You would think the president of the NCAA would be above that, but he's not.
Last week, the Division I management council approved six recommendations. They will be rubber stamped by the Division I Board of Directors next month.
The main points: Schools will no longer be able to fly prospects to campus in private airplanes, but will be allowed to use regularly scheduled commercial flights. Prospects must be housed in standard lodging and eat standard meals. Students who are hosts for prospects during visits must be current student-athletes or be students designated to conduct campus visits or tours for all prospective students. Institutions cannot develop personalized recruiting aides, such as personalized jerseys or personalized jumbotron presentations.
Some of that makes little difference and even makes some sense. There's no good reason for giving prospects deluxe rooms or feeding them steak and lobster. I doubt if many athletes choose a school based on a jumbotron presentation, thought it's hard to see anything evil in those presentations.
As usually happens when Brand is involved, the proposals went too far.
Private planes aren't normally used as perks for prospects, nor are many university private planes luxurious. They are used to pick up several prospects at once as a cost-saving measure, to pick up prospects who don't live near commercial airports and to pick up prospects who have basketball games on Friday nights.
Now, that's really evil, isn't it?
Because of its proximity to Atlanta, Auburn won't have it as bad as some schools. But the real problem could come in getting prospects who live in rural areas and have no transportation from their home to an airport.
Because bad things happened at Colorado, every athletic host and hostess group in the nation has been painted with the same brush. That's just not fair.
Brand and his cohorts are out of touch with the real world. They pass rules that outlaw athletic dorms and limit the time coaches spend with athletes. Then they are appalled when problems arise.
They limit training table meals when they, in fact, should do the opposite. They should require that athletes are fed well by universities they represent. Instead, many college football athletes live mostly on fast food.
They are aghast at the thought of college students drinking beer, but they sell sponsorships to beer companies.
They expect prospects to be treated like children in February and to be left to their own devices when they arrive on campus in August.
There are plenty of problems that the NCAA big wigs need to address. Certainly, recruiting is often an ugly and unethical business. But if they really want to make a difference, they could start by going after the shoe companies that corrupt basketball players even before they arrive in college. But those shoe companies give lots of money to college athletic programs. Don't expect Brand and friends to go after them.
Brand is an educated and, no doubt, brilliant man. Maybe he was a great president at Indiana University. For the NCAA, he is the wrong man at the wrong time.