Commission tells NCAA it has trust issues

Posted Thursday, Aug. 08, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics called on the NCAA to expand the boards that oversee Division I sports programs to include former athletes and public officials, in order to overcome a loss of confidence in its supervision of college athletics.

“The fragmented oversight for the highest level of college football, and for the billions of dollars in revenue it produces, was a key element in this examination,” according to a new report the commission gave Thursday to NCAA President Mark Emmert.

The report found “a general loss of confidence in the NCAA governance process” among those interviewed, and added that the commission thinks the public is losing trust in the system that oversees college athletics, as well. The Knight report was based on interviews with nearly 50 higher education and sports leaders, as well comments from conference commissioners, athletics directors and others.

On the same day that the NCAA received the report, it also made news because of a controversy over sales of player jerseys on its website.

The NCAA had said that jerseys and the likenesses of college athletes that appear in videos for sale on its website weren’t connected to individual players. But ESPN commentator and Charlotte attorney Jay Bilas, a former Duke University basketball player, tweeted that he’d typed in “Johnny Manziel” in the search bar of the NCAA shop page and had come up with four replica jerseys with the Texas A&M quarterback’s No. 2 on them.

Bilas tweeted that he’d gotten similar results with other players. The issue relates to an ongoing debate about whether college athletes should be able to earn income from the sales of their likenesses, and if not, why should the NCAA be permitted to take advantage of that? Within hours of his tweets, the NCAA removed the search function from the site.

In his first comments on the issue, Emmert said in a conference call with reporters that the NCAA would stop the sales.

“In the national office we certainly recognize why that could be seen as hypocritical,” he said. “And I think the business of having the NCAA sell those kinds of goods is a mistake and we’re going to exit that business immediately.”

The Knight report recommended that the NCAA receive some of the revenue from the major-college football playoff, but use it only to “support athletes’ educational experiences.” Currently the revenue is divided unevenly among the college football conferences, with the more powerful conferences earning more.

The commission also said more study should be given to the possibility of a new NCAA subdivision for football only, for schools in the five major college sports conferences.

The Knight report was based, in part, on interviews with nearly 50 higher education and sports leaders, as well comments from conference commissioners, athletics directors and others.

“The commission’s study revealed broad agreement that college sports provide tremendous benefits to our universities and to college athletes,” the report said. “However, nearly all respondents expressed serious concern that the quest for revenue in Division I is undermining academic and institutional ideals.”

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