College administrators are a tight-lipped bunch. Luckily, we have open-record laws that reveal what they really think about the multitude of problems facing the NCAA.
Last spring at a meeting in Dallas of NCAA officials, each member was handed a 44-page report titled, “Privileged and Confidential — Not for Distribution.” The contents were recently distributed to the L.A. Times in an open records request, revealing anonymous feedback from 52 collegiate administrators that serve in a variety of roles, from presidents and chancellors to athletic directors.
The feedback provided by the college administrators to the NCAA touched on a wide variety of topics and elicited some candid responses. Sports writers were commonly blamed for the NCAA’s poor reputation.
“It is a hard environment with these sports writers who think amateurism is ludicrous. I think there is room for the definition of amateurism to evolve. In some sports, it is okay for students to compete in non-collegiate competition, like the Olympics, where there is an opportunity to make money through endorsements. And this inconsistency is ridiculous to me. Treat student-athletes like other students. If a pianist got an endorsement from Steinway, we go, yay. If it is an athlete, totally different story.”
The following response was a little less reasonable, but much more hilarious.
“The general public does not view the NCAA in a positive light. There was a huge communication plan to fix this, but then the scandals ruined that.”
“Communication” seems to be the fallback for many college administrators. Instead of examining the root of the problem at the heart of the rule book, they believe this is nothing a high-quality PR campaign can’t fix.
“The biggest threat is that the court system will force us to start paying athletes. And that will be the end of amateur sports as we know it,” one commented. “I think if we did a better job to show the academic benefits of playing college sports, it would take a lot of wind out of the balloon. All of the perks like letter jackets, cost of attendance, ring, etc.”
Of course, not every respondent was that naive. One accurately pointed out that they must act before important matters are taken out of their hands. This was submitted before California governor Gavin Newsom signed the “Fair Pay to Play Act” in February of 2019.
“Our future is being determined outside of our intentions,” their comment said. “We are going to face a future that we are not creating. It will be created for us by those in courts or outside of our boardrooms.”
Similar conversations are taking place now through Saturday at the annual NCAA convention in Anaheim. Will they actually address the pressing issues at hand and work to make changes before NIL legislation goes into effect, or create another brilliant commercial campaign that’s universally mocked?