McMillen seeking college reforms

July 25, 1991|By Ed Sherman | Ed Sherman,Chicago Tribune

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Tom McMillen, D-Md., today was to introduce legislation in the House calling for far-reaching reforms in college sports, including a requirement that the NCAA negotiate all football and basketball broadcast contracts.

McMillen proposes giving university presidents unprecedented power over intercollegiate sports by creating a Board of Presidents to govern the NCAA. The group, containing no more than 33 elected members, would be able to unilaterally enact changes and reforms without taking the proposals to the NCAA convention. Their decisions could be overruled only by a two-thirds vote of the 293 university presidents in NCAA Division I, the division most affected by the bill.

The bill would prevent individual conferences or schools from negotiating football and basketball broadcast contracts. The income then would be dispersed by a plan determined by the Board of Presidents, with McMillen envisioning greater revenue-sharing. For example, the regulation would preclude Notre Dame from cutting its own football TV deal, as it did with NBC starting this fall.

To achieve this goal, McMillen proposes giving the NCAA a limited antitrust exemption.

The NCAA did control its football television contracts until the Supreme Court ruled in 1983 that the organization was in violation of antitrust laws.

Since then, conferences and schools have been free to make their own deals.

"There's no control by the NCAA," McMillen said. "Everybody's doing their own deals. This model is much more responsible."

McMillen, a former All-American basketball player at Maryland, says the bill will bring intercollegiate sports more in line "with the values of higher education."

The main component of the bill, McMillen says, is giving the presidents complete control of the NCAA. He doesn't believe the Presidents Commission, which has considerable influence in proposing NCAA legislation, is the answer.

"The commission proposes something, and then the membership fights it," McMillen said. "There's an inertia to change. You get modest reforms at best. I don't believe the balance [between athletics and academics] can be achieved internally [within the NCAA]. This is a step in the right direction."

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