NEW ORLEANS -- Too many universities run top sports programs like professional franchises -- emphasizing winning and making money before the student-athletes' education -- and that trend must end, NCAA president Myles Brand said.
In Division I football and basketball especially, there is too much pressure on coaches and players to win games first and worry about education second, which in the long run isolates both groups from the academic community, Brand said Tuesday.
"Intercollegiate athletics is not a freestanding, wholly autonomous enterprise that is located in close proximity to a university," he said. "To the degree that athletics programs look and behave like such freestanding enterprises, we have seen the type of drift toward the professional model that in the long run will diminish the value of the program to the university."
Brand spoke at a symposium hosted by Tulane University. The meetings also will include debates about whether college football's current Bowl Championship Series should be changed or scrapped.
Tulane President Scott Cowen is a staunch opponent of the BCS, which runs the four most lucrative bowl games -- including one as the national championship game -- and has direct tie-ins to only six college football conferences. Two teams receive at-large bids based on computer rankings, meaning all eight participants could come from BCS conferences.
Cowen and other BCS critics have said the system amounts to an antitrust violation of federal law by all but excluding non-BCS schools from the chance to play in BCS bowls. BCS bowls not only pay the most money, but give greater marketing and recruiting advantages for schools in those conferences.
Britton Banowsky, commissioner of the non-BCS Conference USA, said he has come to appreciate the damage being labeled a non-BCS school can cause since leaving his old employer, the Big 12 Conference, which is a BCS league.
"It's really a very dramatic impact that occurs," Banowsky said.
The NCAA has no direct authority over how universities design playoff systems. But Brand said he hopes the NCAA can have an indirect effect by changing the culture of college sports to one that seeks a better balance between its business side and its educational mission.
"Once you get clear about the whole objective of college sports, you're in a better position for making decisions about the BCS and conference realignment and so forth," Brand said.
Brand made clear that he believes students are in college for degrees first, and that college sports were never meant to be anything other than an activity that enhances college life, as is the case with lower-profile sports like swimming or track.
"We have to recommit to education as the goal of intercollegiate athletics," Brand said.
When making money is the primary goal, "The logical next step is to reduce the collegiate model to only those sports that produce revenue," Brand said. "That is simply not acceptable."
Representatives from BCS conferences are expected to arrive this weekend and present some ideas for making the college football championship more inclusive.
Cowen, who already has been invited to discuss the matter before Congress, said Tuesday he was optimistic a solution could be found outside of the courts or Congress.
"We are on a path to resolve this collegially among ourselves as university presidents," Cowen said.
Craig Thompson, commissioner of the non-BCS Mountain West Conference, agreed.
"There has been tremendous dialogue. There has been movement," by BCS schools, he said.
The Associated Press News Service
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