When I wrote last month on the latest blow, and maybe the final one, to amateurism in big time college sports (“Memo to the NCAA–It’s Over”), little did I know that within the past ten days would begin the unfolding of what will almost certainly be the most complete overhaul of college sports as we have known it for at least three quarters of a century. With Oklahoma and Texas moving from the Big 12 Conference to the Southeastern Conference, the die is cast for the final chapter of any semblance of amateurism in college football. I can remember in the mid 1980s when Jackie Sherrill was then head coach at Texas A&M and at a news conference he outlined what he predicted would be the inevitable evolution of Division I football into four major conferences of 16 teams each with a playoff leading to a national championship much like college basketball. I agreed with him then and, voila, here we are.
Around the time of the last major overhaul of conference alignments about ten years ago, the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics announced its third report entitled “Restoring the Balance: Dollars, Values, and the Future of College Sports”. While not as provocative as its first two reports in 1991 and 2001, it was certainly timely, dealing as it did with the impact of the enormous and rapidly increasing funding of college sports that was overwhelming all other considerations on strategy and conference affiliations. The Commission offered three principles for reform: 1) require that financial reports be public and transparent; 2) reward institutions that make academic values a priority; and 3) treat athletes as students first and foremost–not as professionals. The Commission further recommended that the financial reports filed by each institution with the NCAA be made public and include an additional measure comparing spending in athletics and academics, with athletic revenue distribution more closely tied to academic values and standards.
How is that working for us? I think the Knight Commission must have moved on from college athletics after the third report. Might as well have. A quote from one of the articles on the OU/UT issue this past week says it all: “The college game is nothing but the NFL hiding behind the veil of education”.