College Sports and the NCAA
Executive director Dick Schultz sizes up the progress of college athletics reform
IF Dick Schultz, the Johnny Appleseed of college athletic reform, is late for an appointment, he can't blame the airlines. A licensed pilot, the executive director the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) flies a Lear jet the association purchased after he assumed his current post in 1987.That may sound like an extravagance, but it's actually proving cost effective, given Schultz's ambitious travel schedule. ll be on the road over 200 days this year, and sometimes in two or three places in the same day," says the soft-spoken leader of the 828-school association based in Overland Park, Kan., a suburb of Kansas City, Mo. A former University of Iowa basketball and baseball coach and a former athletic director at Cornell University and the University of Virginia, Schultz says "the perception of the general public is that colleges and universities are not doing a good job of controlling their athletic programs." He is spearheading efforts within the NCAA to establish a new model for college athletics and says he's committed to getting out the word, being a visible advocate and agent of change. And he doesn't just visit the big-time athletic schools: He recently came to Worcester (Mass.) Polytechnic Institute, where he participated in the college's homecoming activities and agreed to a Monitor interview. Edited excerpts follow: Who are college sports for: the student body, the university community as a whole, the athletes, or the alumni? I think it's probably all of the above. At Division I [the major-college level] it's for the athletes, it's for the university, it's for the general public as well. Many of these schools view it as a real extension of public visibility for the institution. I've talked to a number of college presidents at the smaller Division I schools and tried pointing out to them that they might be much better off in Division II or III. But Division I is very important to them ... not so much from an athletic standpoin t, but it gives them the visibility they need to attract students. Is the educational component being underplayed? People will always question the educational value of athletics at any level, whether it's Division I or Division III. But people do need a diversion. They need things to take them out of the academic arena. Does this create problems? Yes, sometimes it does if a school lets things get out of balance.... To change that and move in a positive direction we need to change the model, which is the thrust of efforts we've made in the last three years. They're geared to making sure the athletic program is in its right role in the academic community and that the athletes move back into the mainstream of the university life and become as indistinguishable from the rest of the student body as possible. How can this be done? It will take quite a bit of time to do it. We've put even more restrictions on recruiting and limitations on the number of hours a day an athlete can practice, both in season and out of season. We're phasing out athletic dormitories and special training tables over a five-year period. We're coming into some strong academic reforms in January that I hope will be passed. And in the fall of '93 there will be a certification program for accrediting athletic departments. College athletic programs often operate independently of the rest of the university. Is that part of the problem? That is. It's a little bit of a double-edged sword, because some states have laws that say you cannot use tax money for intercollegiate athletics. So what that does is force those programs to be self-sustaining. At most institutions, the athletic department is like food service - an auxiliary enterprise at the university. The trend of athletic departments being separate corporations is pretty much eliminated. If coaches were required to be teachers, wouldn't that have a tremendous impact on how much attention a coach pays to the overall university community? I don't think it's ever been considered from the standpoint of national legislation. In 1960, when I started coaching at the University of Iowa, virtually all our coaches taught some class in the physical education department, whether a skills class or a theories class. Over the years you saw less and less of that happening, especially in football and basketball. And now, unfortunately, we are starting to see the same thing happen in Divisions II and III in those two sports. A lot of football and basketb all coaches have been given a release to just coach. If coaches taught just one course, it would be beneficial to the coach and I think it would be beneficial to the institution. Would it also be helpful if coaches could earn tenure? That's one of the things I talked about in the new model. We had to come up with ways to reduce pressure, but there was no support for what I suggested. Basically what I said was that coaches should be given minimum five-year contracts that could not be broken by either party. Then there could be a review every fourth year to determine if that contract should be extended. Occasionally, athletes have piped up and said, 'We should get a piece of the financial pie.' Do you foresee that happening? I think you'll see an effort to increase financial aid, but I don't think you'll see an outright stipend. Once you do that, you immediately establish an employee-employer relationship, and fol- lowing that there are two things that happen that make it almost unaffordable for colleges: First, you now are liable for workman's compensation and all the other liabilities that go into an employer-employee relationship. Second, as soon as you do that, I'm sure the IRS would step in and say that ... you are a pr ofessional, not an amateur, team. And yet aren't financial problems beginning to plague many programs? The information we have indicates that almost 70 percent of the Division I schools operated in the red last year. College athletics are having a hard time keeping pace with is the increases in tuition. Is having college presidents get involved at this time making a difference? It is.... And I'm happy to see college governing boards now starting to strengthen the position of the presidents as they deal with athletics, whereas, in the past, presidents have actually lost their jobs when they made decisions regarding coaches and programs that alumni didn't agree with. Is there any concern that schools like Notre Dame, which went out and signed its own TV contract, will fracture the collective NCAA? I don't think you'll see a breakup, but you may see more conference realignment and you may see more people going out on their own during the season to develop their own television package. I don't think, however, that that will have any impact on the NCAA because you still need a governing body, you need something that creates a semblance of a level playing field.