Can the NCAA be saved or is it time for something completely different

What is the first thing I would do to change the NCAA for the better?  A lot of people say they would simplify the rule book, quicken the investigations, and strengthen the penalties for wrong doers.  That seems to me to be moving the rearranging the deck chairs of the Titanic.

If were given to power to change anything that I could to make the NCAA better it would be to force the NFL and NBA to develop effective minor league systems.  This would take players whose singular goal is to become professional athletes and put them in a professional environment without having to pretend to want to go to college classes.

I would couple this with instituting the same rule that NCAA baseball has for athletes across the board.  Namely, if you sign a letter of intent it is at least a 2 year commitment.  The school is committing a full scholarship to you for 2 years, meaning it is only up for review after the first two years, even with a coaching change and the athlete commits to the school and going to college for two years without leaving for the pros.

In addition, if you decide to stay past the initial two year commitment, you are renewing your scholarship for another two years with you and the school making the same commitment to each other.

The NCAA could do the two year commitment part now, if it wanted to.  However, the problems the NCAA has with enforcement and the coming specter of paying players is that the athletic development system of the United States is flawed.  It is flawed because in the most formative years of an athlete’s life, their development as an athlete is tied to an amateur scholastic system.

While this has enormous benefits for schools and athletes by helping provide them with academic opportunities through athletic scholarships, it has created and festered the idea in this country as athletics and sports simply as a recreational past time.  Sports are simply something you do to get to the next phase of your life.

There is almost no recognition that sports are a business with many different types of ways to participate.  Everyone initially comes to sports as an athlete.  Then, depending upon your athletic prowess you either continue to play or you slowly move the periphery.  On that periphery are many vocations within sport that have a much longer and more sustainable career arch then simply playing:  Coaching, administration/business at different levels, physical therapists, nutritionists, agents, managers, etc.

The business of sports is huge, but this country continues to ghettoize it as simple children’s games and pastimes.  To truly save college sports, not the NCAA because I believe it is a bureaucracy in it last days, we must do something that seems counterintuitive: We must professionalize sports at an earlier age and get schools at all levels out of running sports teams.  The big idea is an old one borrowed mostly from European soccer: sports academies.

What do these academies look like and how do they function?  Check back tomorrow and we will explore this further.


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