It's now a war in the Valley.
Grand Canyon's CEO told CBSSports.com he directly blames Arizona State president Michael Crow for disparaging his school's move to Division I membership.
CBSSports.com reported Wednesday that the Pac-12 had written the NCAA questioning the admittance of for-profit schools into Division I. Phoenix-based Grand Canyon would be the first such school to do so in Division I. The school joins the WAC in basketball, as well as other sports, in the fall. It becomes a full NCAA Division I member and can receive NCAA disbursements as well as go to the tournament in 2017-2018.
“It became clear it was Arizona State and Dr. Crow who is driving this agenda,” Grand Canyon president Brian Mueller said in a phone interview.
Mueller added he was told by NCAA president Mark Emmert that Grand Canyon's Division I status re: the Pac-12 “was a discussion item only and nothing would come of it.” Grand Canyon officials have been aware of Arizona State's stance against it for four months, Mueller said, but kept it private.
“We didn't want to make it a public issue,” Mueller said. “If it did become public, public perception would not likely be in his [Crow's] favor.”
Crow told AZCentral.com on Friday, "It's about what we want the NCAA to be. We support any reform possible to enhance the value of the scholar-athletes and meeting higher academic standards ... We are against using athletics as a mechanism to make profits. It's contrary to what we're trying to do."
A cynic might suggest that all of major college athletics is for profit. That's why they keep track of things like only a handful of FBS schools operating in the black.
CBSSports.com reported Wednesday that multiple sources said that Arizona State was behind the push back against Grand Canyon. The two share the same metropolitan area but until this week, many had probably never heard of Grand Canyon.
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said his league's CEOs contacted the NCAA as “a policy issue.”
“It's hard to put the genie back in the bottle,” Scott said.
Grand Canyon is a private, for-profit institution that would be the first of its kind admitted to Division I. The school is publicly traded. Mueller said the school's after-tax profit from 2009-12 was $182 million. However, the investment in infrastructure (labs, dorms, facilities) had totaled $308 million.
“Our investors are fine with that,” Mueller said.
Also according to Mueller,
• Grand Canyon doesn't pay dividends on its stock.
• Tuition has been frozen for four years.
• The school is going to lose money on athletics.
Grand Canyon offers 22 sports, well above the NCAA minimum. It was founded in 1949, became an NCAA member in 1990, becoming a for-profit institution in 2003. The basketball program was once an NAIA power coached by Paul Westphal in the 1980s. Former NBA star Dan Majerle is the current coach. Undergrad enrollment has grown rapidly in recent years to 8,500.
The at-times outspoken Crow has been ASU's president since 2002.
“Arizona State really has been the only player in this metropolitan area,” Mueller said. “Grand Canyon is now growing with [state of] Arizona students, but growing with good Arizona students.
“I'm trying to stay above the fray and state the obvious. There's some hypocrisy going on here. Higher education, everybody knows, is so expensive. This is a model that's new and very different because it's being applied to a traditional educational setting. We expect there to be resistance. All we ask is for an audience.”
If Crow is behind the story, Arizona State may have given the private, Christian-based institution more publicity than it could have ever hoped.