Posted by Bryan Fischer
INDIANAPOLIS -- As part of sweeping changes stemming from a Presidential retreat in August, an NCAA working group will recommend to the organization's Board of Directors that FBS-level football scholarships be cut from 85 to 80 starting in 2014.
The proposal was among the most controversal to be discussed at a Division I session Friday morning at the annual NCAA convention, with several school leaders quite outspoken about the issue.
"What you see with these proposals is an effort to restrain spending at the expense of student-athletes," Harvey Perlman, chancellor of Nebraska, said. "The working group says if you reduce scholarships and other expenses you can reallocate it to other things for student-athletes. But the problem is, I don't know of an athletic department that won't spend every penny it has.
"I just think this is bad publicity and I think it's bad policy."
Georgia president Dr. Michael Adams chaired the group responsible and was put in the precarious position of leading the charge of several unpopular measures.
"Of all the things I've done the last 30 years at the NCAA, this is the most unpopular. I have the scars to show for it," Adams said. "There's a notion that we are a runaway train in Division I with less regard for student-athletes than the people who are making the exorbitant salaries. We need to put a stake down somewhere."
A good portion of the administrators speaking at a Q&A session about the new proposals - at large schools and small - sided with Perlman and cited issues with taking away opportunities not only to play football but earn a degree.
"It's pretty hard to see it any other way," said Perlman. "There's public concern about universities generating all these resources and not giving it to student-athletes. So the response is we're going to cut scholarships and other kinds of things? It doesn't make sense to me."
Adams is an interesting choice to lead the charge to cut spending at schools across the country. The Bulldogs have one of the healthiest athletics departments in the country and the football team was the second-most profitable in the country behind Texas last year. He understands that while others disagree with some of the details, there is a reason why the working group has been tasked to do what it has been working on.
"I think we've been running headlong into a cliff and now is a time to start pushing things back a little," he said. "I'm first of all an academic. I'm a big sports fan but I want the academic process to drive things and not the athletic process."
Coaches have been outspoken about the cuts as well. It was discussed at the AFCA Coaches Convention prior to the NCAA meetings and it's opposed in greater numbers among their ranks than those that headed to Indianapolis.
"The divide between presidents and AD's on one side and coaches is a pretty wide gulf," Adams said. "I don't want to fight with anybody. But on some of these issues I think there needs to be reasonable compromise to protect the academic process and, secondly, deal with the economic realities of the world we're now living in. My faculty hasn't had a raise in three years and a lot of them think what they see in athletics has a lot of excess in it."
The scholarship proposal also calls for a cut in the number of FCS scholarships by three - from 63 to 60 - and will be sent to the Board of Directors on Saturday to be voted on.