"We're definitely headed in the right direction," University of Maryland College Park's William E. "Brit" Kirwan said at the end of the NCAA's annual convention in Nashville last week. That may have been an understatement. The 1990 convention of the National Collegiate Athletic Association might be remembered as the point at which educators regained control of their campuses.
A series of reforms proposed by the NCAA Presidents Commission was passed -- aimed at putting the "student" back in the phrase "student-athlete." The number of athletic scholarships was cut. The number of allowable coaching positions was cut. The number of hours of practice required of players was cut. Athletes-only dormitories were forbidden. Schedules were cut. The groundwork was laid for a real strengthening of academic requirements next year.
Many athletic directors and coaches of major sports at the biggest football and basketball schools oppose this. So will many fans. One athletic director said, "the presidents aren't really educated in athletics." That's true. But they are in charge and responsible. The NCAA made that clear in 1985, when it began penalizing schools for the crime of "lack of institutional control" of their athletic departments. College Park was hit with one of those penalties, which will cost it about $3 million. No longer will a president get off the hook with the NCAA by saying, "the basketball coach did what he did without my knowledge" -- even if that were true. Since the presidents are legally responsible for what happens in their athletic departments, they have to be in charge, too.