Schultz calls for schools to pick up the sports tab Director kicks off NCAA convention

January 08, 1991|By Mark Hyman | Mark Hyman,Sun Staff Correspondent

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE — NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Dick Schultz hit all the familiar issues, including those for which there seem to be no workable solutions.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association executive director proposed a national coaches' meeting to find ways to curb recruiting excesses.

He announced that a special committee would be formed soon to look at the methods used to investigate and punish schools that violate NCAA rules.

He waved the flag for an array of cost-saving rules proposals that will be voted on here this week.

Nothing brought applause from the group of roughly 2,000 college presidents, athletic directors and officials assembled for the opening of the 85th annual NCAA convention until Schultz urged Division I schools to take the drastic step of paying for their athletic departments.

"It's not realistic to say to an athletics director, we want a broad-based program, we want equality for women, and we want it to be totally self-supporting," Schultz said in his annual state-of-the-college-game speech, which was the first significant event of this week's convention.

When the applause thinned, Schultz added: "Athletics departments should be funded like any other university department. A budget should be submitted and approved, and all staff compensation should come through normal university channels. . . . Only then can athletics hold its proper place in higher education."

Schultz's remarks couldn't have found more receptive ears. For years, many college presidents and athletic directors have struggled to run their athletic departments, and to balance their multimillion-dollar budgets, without financial assistance from the general fund of their schools.

Few states, including Maryland, allow major universities to spend tax dollars to support intercollegiate athletics. Instead, athletic departments must rely on a combination of private fund-raising, ticket sales and the hope of qualifying for a football bowl game or the NCAA basketball tournament to balance their budgets.

It's a system that many administrators say leads to undue pressure on coaches and players and to an atmosphere where the temptation to break rules sometimes is irresistible.

But finding fault with the system and being committed to changing it are different things.

"I still believe the root cause of a lot of our difficulties is that [college sports] is such big business," said University of Maryland president William E. Kirwan, who has supported the concept, if not the reality, of bringing the Terps athletic department under the overall university budget.

But Kirwan said he doesn't see how the university could take over the athletic department's budget any time soon.

"Given our current economic state -- and the enormous pressure that universities are under -- I rather doubt this is the time to seriously look at transferring the cost of intercollegiate athletics," the Maryland president said.

For his part, Schultz acknowledged that the time may not be right for athletic departments to be looking to universities to balance their budgets. "That's a strong possibility. It will be difficult to effect that," he said, referring to the budget reform.

However, Schultz added, "I think you'll find athletic directors supportive of this type of approach."

Athletic department budgets were one item among several controversial themes that Schultz touched on. He also announced these initiatives:

* A meeting of Division I coaches to be held next April in Kansas City, Mo. Members of NCAA committees that review recruiting rules will attend, as well as a number of Division I coaches from all sports.

Said Schultz, "The purpose of this meeting is a very simple one: to see if we can get agreement from coaches to reduce and simplify the recruiting rules."

* Formation of a special committee to review the procedures by which the NCAA investigates schools suspected of rules violations and, if necessary, penalizes them.

Schultz took pains to point out that his desire to look at the process didn't mean he was dissatisfied with the current system. But he said: "We all recognize that sanctions and the investigative process are like a lightning rod. There are no winners in the enforcement and infractions process."

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