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NCAA Prez: "Future So Bright..."

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Myles Brand, in front of the National Press Club on C-SPAN2 a few minutes ago on the same day as his organization's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues Think Tank in Indianapolis, used the opportunity to lay out a few of the issues addressed in a report ("2nd Century Imperative: Presidential Leadership and Institutional Accountability") put together by a task force headed by a few university presidents. Hot topics, revelations, big initiatives and other moments of interest:

Student-Athlete Graduation Rates are Rising
" What's most frustrating is that people fail to pay attention to the facts...the fact of the matter is our student-athletes are doing better...there is a change of culture that is taking place...we need to get past the point where the assumption is that student-athletes are doing bad."

The feds say graduation rates are at 63 percent overall, and 58 percent for Division I football, both well above the rates for the general student body. Brand says the feds can go to hell, the real rates are way higher (77 percent overall, according to the prez, 68 percent for Division I football) because the federal rates don't keep track of transfers, which apparently are counted the same as straight drop-outs and failures. He wants to get the overall rate up to 80 percent.

College sports are an integral part of college education and the academic process of the institution
"The guiding principle is that athletics should resemble other areas on campus, how they interact, how budgets are developed, how they are held accountable...No one should be able to claim that revenues from sports are being used for anything not furthering the goals of higher education. College sports should not be held apart from the campus, but rather should be embedded within the purposes of higher education."

Priority number one from the task force report is to halt what SMQ would say is a perceived drift by the major sports towards independence and professionalism, and reign these departments in under the university umbrella in the same structure as, say, the drama or English departments; this "embedding" of athletics is part and parcel with another primary Brand theme: moderating athletic expenditure rates. Not moderating budgets, necessarily, because Brand ultimately probably does want spending to rise, but rather limiting rates as a part of the university's total expenditures - "the goal is to moderate the growth of athletic funds to prevent requiring more subsidy from the university. We must moderate the rate of growth so that participation opportunities are maximized. The spending rate must mirror that of the university as a whole." This initiative will carry no mandates, guidelines, deadlines or sanctions - it's a "campus by campus" approach, which defies a catchall formula for every school (and anyway, instituting spending limits in this case is illegal under anti-trust laws, according to Brand) - and therefore seems to consist pretty much of cosmetic jargon.

Note here that "presidential" in the title of the report refers to university presidents, not Brand. These presidents were or will be implored to make their respective athletic directors "partner[s] in the academic success of the institution."

SMQ also finds dubious Brand's reasoning that this emphasis on limiting exponential growth where institutional subsidies are concerned would not mean many schools being forced to cut back - as an example of how to limit growth, he suggested asking whether all athletic department personnel are necessary, even while denying these employees are a "waste" or that losing them to align spending with the university as a whole would be "cutting back." He also denied Title IX could be a catalyst in the elimination of some programs, because Title IX "was designed to increase participation, not reduce it," and sports are added or dropped based on institutional priorities and financial circumstances, not "the unintended consequences of Title IX." Unintended consequences of Title IX don't include its effects on institutional priorities and financial circumstances? SMQ's not suggesting any problem with Title IX, but if it should exist, its defense should include a recognition of those consequences and an explanation of why they are acceptable compared to the alternative of not having Title IX, rather than a broad denial of its overall effects on participation.

But in general: get athletic departments better aligned with other university departments academically and fiscally. It didn't get a whole lot more specific than that.

The IRS is on our backs, true, but we're fine.
" We're absolutely certain we are in full compliance with IRS standards and have been ably advised from the outside on that matter."

The question, Brand said, on whether or not the Association should continue as a tax exempt entity lies with the definition of Congress, not the IRS. Legislators could create some sort of exemption that would declare athletic departments professional entities. Which may account for the emphasis on "embedding" these departments as deeply as possible into the hallowed halls of higher education. In fact, replace "may" with "does." The topic of the attack on tax exemption had to be brought up via written question from the audience, and had been ignored by Brand previously, which is why he was able to avoid connecting the two subjects.

Other than the main, desperate thrust of our entire organizational influence, no, we're not worried about the IRS

Student-athletes could receive a fifth year of eligibility.

This - along with allowing multi-year scholarships - is going to be looked at, or studied, or proposed, or something. Brand was pretty vague. But he did mention adding an extra year of eligibility, "because so many students now are taking five years to graduate rather than four," as a question the association is considering in the next few years. Probably at least five years away from a recommendation on this, apparently, so no Tebow or Spiller in 2010.

The NCAA has nothing to do with the BCS, so don't even ask.

SMQ would have asked why the NCAA has nothing to do with crowning a Bowl Subdivision champion in D-I football, when it crowns a champion through a playoff in every single other sport it sanctions in every division. It gives nice, uniform wood-and-gold plaques for winning multiple games in a tournament, instead of a corporately-sponsored crystal ball for winning one formulaically-determined game. But there is still no good explanation for this.

Click here for the NCAA's version of the above.