In his comments to the delegates at the 99th annual NCAA Convention, NCAA President Myles Brand identified the fiscal underpinning of college sports as the next important area of concern for intercollegiate athletics.
Brand also discussed academic reform and the status of amateurism in college sports with the delegates. But it was the need for examining the financial underpinnings of intercollegiate athletics that dominated his State of the Association speech.
“This is where I expect to focus a good portion of my attention over the next several years,” Brand said.
Brand, who is beginning his third year as president of the NCAA, told the delegates that the ability of college sports to enhance revenues at rates higher than that of other parts of the university is not sustainable in the future.
“While there will be sufficient support, in all likelihood, so that athletics budgets will continue to increase, the expectations for the current high rate of growth cannot be met in the future,” he said. “There will be disappointments when the rate of growth moderates.”
Brand noted that the pressure to maintain the high rate of revenue growth has pressured intercollegiate athletics to increase wins, which in turn has increased the competition for star athletes and coaches. All this is based, he said, on the popular view that institutions have to increase spending to increase wins, and you have to increase wins to increase revenue.
Brand pointed to an economic study released by the NCAA a year ago that found no correlation between increased spending and increased winning or between increased winning and increased revenues. He noted that the expectation for Division I athletics programs to be self-sustaining has pushed intercollegiate athletics departments further away from the mission of the university.
“Athletics is too visible and influential to be ancillary and too enriching to the university experience to be ignored as a contribution to the mission of higher education,” he said. “And if it has value in the university’s meeting its mission, it deserves to be supported, if needed.”
The solution, according to Brand, is a new expectation of fiscal responsibility that links budgeting for athletics to the value it brings to the college or university.
“In my view, we must develop a process for value- and mission-based budgeting of athletics that parallels the way budgets for other university programs are set,” he said. “The central point is that the value of an athletics program must ultimately rest on its support of and integration into the educational mission and traditions of the university.
“We must arrest the slide toward professional athletics and the sports entertainment industry. And while the problem is not of crisis proportions right now, the time to [address the problem] is now.”
Elsewhere in the State of the Association address, Brand discussed what he called the myth that college sports is more about sports than college. He said that according to this myth, “intercollegiate athletics, as a component of the university, is failing at its most basic mission — educating student-athletes.”
Brand noted that the evidence is to the contrary and pointed to the most recent publication of graduation rates that show student-athletes on average graduate at a higher rate than the general student body in both Division I and Division II institutions. He also noted that there are exceptions, football and men’s basketball primarily, though there has been improvement in both sports.
The NCAA president pointed to the adoption a year ago of academic reform measures that will promote better academic preparation for high school student-athletes and enhance progress toward a degree for enrolled collegiate student-athletes.
“These measures will change the culture of college sports,” he said. “Success as a student as well as an athlete, simply, is the only acceptable standard for the future in college sports.”
Brand also challenged the notion that amateurism is a myth. He noted that among the cynics amateurism has come to mean athletics “on the cheap.”
Brand observed that those cynics argue that the days of amateurs and playing sports for the love of the game are gone and student-athletes should be paid. Student-athletes should share in the profits of football and basketball, according to this view.
“I could not be more opposed,” he said.
He said that the collegiate model of athletics is based on the idea that students should come to college to get an education and play sports.
“As old fashioned as that may sound, I challenge the cynics to survey the 360,000 student-athletes who participate in college sports to see if they don’t overwhelmingly say that is exactly why they play,” he said. “Amateurism has never been about the size of budgets or salaries. It isn’t about facility expansion, or skyboxes or commercialism. Amateurism is about why student-athletes play sports.”