January 9th, 2006

NCAA Chief Thinks Revenue

By Robyn Norwood
Los Angeles Times

Money—new ways to make it and new ways to spend it—is a topic in the hallways and conference rooms of the NCAA convention.

Myles Brand, the former Indiana University president who some thought would bring an ivory-tower approach to college sports when he became NCAA president in 2003, instead told delegates that it was time to embrace commercialism, as long as it was compatible with educational values.

In his state-of-the-association speech Saturday, Brand had a word for the idea that it was "improper, not quite right" for the NCAA to engage in commercialism.

"Nonsense," he said. " ‘Amateur’ defines the participants, not the enterprise."

Brand said that the NCAA should avoid "crass or overwhelming" advertising, but that the organization has an "obligation" to maximize revenue to keep up with costs.

There wasn’t quite the uproar from the neighborhood of the Ivy League as some might imagine.

"This may sound strange coming from me, but I absolutely agree with everything he said," Princeton Athletic Director Gary Walters said.

"Myles, having been a president, is aware of the fact that no one apologizes for the Merrill Lynch Professorship of Business or the Johnson & Johnson Conference Center.

"For him to come out and to defend revenue enhancement in a straightforward way is totally consistent with the business of academia.... We’re not walking around apologizing anymore."

Brand emphasized opportunities in new media as a potential area of revenue growth, but some people remain concerned about what additional commercialism might mean.

"I don’t want a University of Georgia jersey to look like a European or South American soccer jersey," said Michael Adams, president of the University of Georgia.

The NCAA also is weighing new ways to spend money, by considering financial incentives in areas that include academic performance and minority hiring.

The Committee on Academic Performance is seeking feedback on a proposed $10-million program that would financially reward schools for performance in the new Academic Progress Ratings.

"One prominent athletic director said he didn’t think we should be incentivizing people to do what they’re already supposed to be doing," said Walter Harrison, president of the University of Hartford and chairman of the reform committee.

Harrison, also chairman of the NCAA executive committee, said academic deans commonly earn salary bonuses for such things as graduation rates, but added that the proposed APR incentives would not be for coaches or administrators.

"The money would be given to the institutions to be used for academic support—it would not just be for a good box of cigars for the president," Harrison said.

A new committee charged with finding concrete ways to increase the hiring of minorities and women for coaching and administrative positions also will consider financial incentives, said Charlotte Westerhaus, NCAA vice president for diversity and inclusion.

A Division II program has provided such incentives as 75% of a minority employee’s pay in his or her first year at a school.

Westerhaus said that type of approach would be debated by a new committee on improving hiring practices that includes Andy Geiger, the former Ohio State and Stanford athletic director; Floyd Keith, executive director of the Black Coaches Assn.; and Washington Coach Tyrone Willingham, one of five black football coaches in Division I-A.

"It will not be only rhetoric," Westerhaus said. "There will be goals that can be counted. There will be strategies and accountability."

Academic reform and improvements in minority hiring have been two of the focal points of Brand’s first three years as NCAA president, a tenure that began with some fretting over what he meant when he said in a speech that college sports needed to "turn down the volume."

"I never intended by ‘turning down the volume,’ cutting back in athletics. I always saw it as a growth opportunity," Brand said. "And you know what I’ve been saying now, it’s still a growth opportunity, but it’s not sustainable at the present rate of growth.

"That’s just another way of saying turn down the volume, frankly."

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