WASHINGTON -- A congressional agency will turn the tables on the NCAA by making the powerful sports organization the subject of an investigation, it was announced today.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association, the major governing body in college sports, is widely known for the investigations it conducts into alleged misconduct by member schools.
The General Accounting Office -- an independent, investigative arm of Congress -- has agreed to probe the finances of college sports, said Rep. Tom McMillen of Maryland.
"College sports is in serious need of reform and the NCAA has not demonstrated the willingness to restructure the model of intercollegiate athletics," McMillen, D-4th, said in a prepared statement.
The federal government, which spends billions of dollars each year on higher education, has a right to maintain proper oversight of college sports, said McMillen, a former collegiate and professional basketball player and a long-time advocate of reforming college sports.
"We need to ensure that our higher education system does not continue to be tarnished by scandal after scandal in college sports," he said.
The investigation will examine such issues as "the total dollar amount involved in college sports and where the money goes," he said.
Compliance with Title IX, the federal law governing equal access to athletics for women, also will be studied, and data on minority hiring in athletic departments will be compiled.
The GAO already has launched the inquiry, said McMillen aide Brad Fitch. "In fact, a GAO investigator is on the road right now," he said.
Concurrent with the GAO investigation, the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Consumer Protection and Competitiveness plans to hold a series of hearings on a variety of subjects related to intercollegiate athletics. The first hearing, scheduled for today, was to feature University of Nevada-Las Vegas basketball Coach Jerry Tarkanian testifying on the NCAA's due-process procedures.
Tarkanian has waged a decades-long court battle with the NCAA over the organization's attempt to sanction him for alleged rules violations.
"One of the areas begging for reform is the process by which the NCAA enforces its own rules," McMillen said.
NCAA penalties against wayward athletic departments can have the indirect effect of tarnishing the reputations of otherwise excellent schools, he said.
"Colleges and universities may have world-renowned physics or math programs, but what the public remembers is the NCAA labeled them with an athletic scandal," he said.
McMillen disclosed the GAO investigation at a press conference called to announce the formation of the Federation for Intercollegiate Fairness and Equity, a non-profit group that will 00 work on solutions to problems in college sports.
Members of the group's board of directors will include Dale Brown, basketball coach at Louisiana State University, and Don Yaeger, author of "Undue Process: The NCAA's Injustice for All."