Marshall: Ways to Improve College Sports

Columnist Phillip Marshall has a laundry list of changes he would like to see in college athletics.

If I was in charge of college athletics, I would...

*Give players in all sports five years of eligibility.

*Attempt to slow down the facilities arms race that has many programs so deeply in debt they might never get out.

*Simplify academic rules to make them better for student-athletes instead of making rulesmakers feel good about themselves. My plan: Every school sets its own standards for admittance. Freshmen are ineligible. In order to be eligible as a sophomore, an athlete must be a legitimate academic sophomore. To be eligible as a junior, he or she must be a legitimate academic junior and so on.

*Do away with the silliness of the APR, which attempts to compare schools with very different academic and athletic missions.

*Call a meeting of football officials to determine what constitutes holding. Once that is determined, tell them to call it every time they see it and to never call it if they don't see it. *

Tell basketball and football officials to never, ever call what they think happened but only what they actually see happen.

*Establish a four-team, two-game playoff for the Division I-A football national championship. That would require just one more game than is currently played.

*Order that computers never again be used to rate teams in any collegiate sport. There is no way a computer can legitimately compare anything other than who teams have played. The best team is not always the most impressive team. National champion Florida was far, far from the most impressive team in college football during the 2006 regular season. Plus, computers inherently reflect the opinions and prejudices of their programmers.

*Tell Notre Dame to either join a conference or be in the same boat as any other independent at bowl selection time.

*Instruct the NCAA enforcement division to come up with a process that respects the rights of schools and individuals to be considered innocent until proven guilty. There is no such system in place at this point. If anything, once you the NCAA gets after you, you are guilty unless you can prove yourself innocent.

*Put 80 teams in the NCAA basketball tournament. Give the top 48 seeds byes in the first round, have 16 first-round games and go from there. That way, the deserving major conference teams and deserving mid-major teams would get their chances. •

*Repeal the rule that forbids athletic dormitories. Coaches are expected to make sure players behave and make sure they succeed academically, yet they are not allowed to create an environment where those who need it can be monitored.

*Repeal what I see as the most ridiculous "cost cutting" rule of all. Athletes are only allowed to receive one training table meal per day, and that only in their season. With what is expected of college athletes, the rule ought to say the opposite. Instead, college athletes frequently end up eating junk food at best, not eating at all at worst.

*Stop the practice of NCAA committees having their meetings in the swankest, most expensive hotels in the country. There's something that doesn't seem right about a committee going to a fancy resort to discuss cutting costs. Are there not meeting rooms at the NCAA offices in Indianapolis?

*Tell the academic eligibility clearinghouse that it must rule on appeals within a week of when they are received. Too often, football players wait for weeks or even months to get rulings.

*Cut the rulebook in half. At least half the rules it contains are ridiculous and have no basis in reality.

*Give college administrators a choice. Either give four-year scholarships or allow players to transfer without penalty. As it stands now, scholarships are one-year agreements--for the school. If a player wants out, he must get a release and then sit out a year. For a school to only be committed for one year and an athlete to essentially be committed for four years is inherently unfair.

Will any of this ever happen? Not likely, but I can dream, can't I?

Until next time...

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