In NCAA circles, Navy's Lengyel is classified I-A

January 08, 1991|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Evening Sun Staff

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Jack Lengyel, the athletic director at the U.S. Naval Academy, is one of the major power brokers here at the 85th annual NCAA convention.

Lengyel was slated to become chairman of the nation's Division I-A athletic directors in June. But he assumed that position last month when Miami's Sam Jankovich, the previous chairman, became general manager of the New England Patriots.

The 106 schools that make up Division I-A are the most visible group within the NCAA. Among other stands, they want spring football practice to return to the more liberal standards of the past. Plus, they want to place scholarship minimums on other members of Division I with smaller programs.

"Major college football suffers from the image that so many of the things we do are wrong," Lengyel said. "It's a high-visibility sport, and people read about abuses at this level, but some of the restrictions the NCAA is trying to place on I-A are unnecessary and dangerous."

Spring football this year will be limited to 15 practice sessions within a 21-day period, with 10 of the sessions involving contact. A legislative proposal sponsored on behalf of the College Football Association would immediately reinstate the old guidelines of 20 sessions in a 36-day period, and allow 15 of the sessions to involve contact.

"How important are five more days of teaching?" Lengyel said. "It's a matter of safety. Football is different from other sports, and we need sufficient time to teach the game so that the athletes better understand it."

Division I-A football coaches also fear a proposed 10 percent across-the-board cut in scholarships that could take them from 95 to 85 scholarships by 1994. Ironically, Navy abstains from voting on scholarship matters, since all of its students attend the academy free of charge.

But Lengyel will be voting on proposed cuts in the number of assistant coaches and tighter limits on recruiting.

"If you limit the time a coach can recruit, it's going to hurt academies," Lengyel said. "We recruit nationally, and we don't sign letters of intent. If recruiting legislation is passed, I would hope we'll get the same leeway and concessions there we've received in other areas in the past."

When it comes to the hottest topic for the smaller Division I programs in Baltimore -- proposals that mean they'll have to spend more money to remain in Division I -- Lengyel speaks for the big-budget programs.

"Division I members have an obligation to enhance athletics throughout their system, so that there are opportunities for all their students," Lengyel said. "There is also the matter of revenue. If [smaller] schools are doing nothing to generate dollars for the NCAA, why should they share in the proceeds?"

The related issue of distributing income from the $1 billion contract with CBS infuriates Lengyel. One of the pieces of the distribution formula still to be determined involves the number of athletic scholarships an institution awards. This summer Navy will move from the Colonial Athletic Association to the Patriot League, whose main tenet is scholarships on a need-only basis.

"That part of the formula is trying to award institutions with broad-based athletic programs," Lengyel said. "If we're not the epitome of a broad-based athletic program, then who is? We offer 33 varsity sports."

Navy was one of the original members of the CAA, and it brought that group its greatest notoriety during the David Robinson years. Another part of the distribution formula would reward conferences for their presence in the basketball tournament over the last six years, but Lengyel has been told Navy will receive none of that money.

CAA members split $294,468 last year. Under the new plan, each will receive $185,383 this year alone, with an increase expected next year, when Navy will be gone.

"The Colonial Athletic Association has the latitude, but it isn't going to give us any of the money that David Robinson, in effect, created," Lengyel said. "We're going to be penalized completely in that area."

Lengyel said Navy shares the academic philosophy of Army and the seven other institutions in the Patriot League, but his main consideration in leaving the CAA was upgrading his women's teams. At the end of this year, Navy will move its women from Division II to I.

"Army took its women to Division I via the Patriot League," Lengyel said. "If we didn't do the same, over a period of time, it would erode our ability to recruit. We have only 450 women in the brigade. If they are going to be in Division I, they can best compete in the Patriot League.

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