Friday, March 9, 2012

Group seeks to grant NCAA the power to regulate coaches’ salaries and other costs of college sports

image The Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics, an alliance of faculty senates from Football Bowl Subdivision  schools, has called for action that would grant the NCAA broad powers to “restrain the market forces” driving the rapid growth in the business of college sports.

The group met in January and earlier this week, released a set of five “policy recommendations” aimed at reining in what they essentially see as a breakaway invasion of their turf.

The most controversial recommendation—granting the NCAA the same type of exemption from antitrust litigation enjoyed by labor unions and professional sports.

From the Associated Press:

"Without modification of antitrust constraints, there is no mechanism to restrain the market forces driving rapid commercial expansion," the steering committee wrote.

Its four other recommendations were:

—To support the so-called "collegiate model" of sports and try to lessen the commercialism that has led to calls that athletes should be paid to play.

—To advocate for policies that will keep big football conferences inside the NCAA, which would allow for some oversight that would be missing if they splintered away.

—To increase efforts to respond to the "reputational risks" that the market-driven model of sports pose to U.S. higher education. This issue came to light, unflinchingly, in the child sex abuse scandal at Penn State, which had its reputation sullied because of problems originating in the football program.

—To continue cooperating with the NCAA in trying to bring about changes, while remaining vigilant about NCAA efforts that place college sports over the academic missions of the schools themselves.

Restraining free markets, lessening commercial influences, restricting the abilities of football schools to operate their programs in their own best interests and essentially conducting a propaganda campaign against “big football” should sound familiar.

Why, these are all wonderful reasons for Congress to act and grant the NCAA bureaucrats virtual autonomy in regulating the business of college sports, aren’t they? Show me one instance of institutionally imposed wage and price controls that has not resulted in complete failure.

Such action would result in:

  • Coaching salary caps
  • Recruiting budget caps
  • Restrictions on the fundraising abilities of athletic departments
  • Restrictions on the abilities of colleges and universities to protect trademarks
  • Regulations on facilities expenditure
  • Reallocation of resources from “haves” to “have nots”
  • Restrictions on market-driven conference realignments
  • Restrictions on the ability of universities to leave the NCAA and form their own organization
  • The end of college sports as we’ve known it for the last two generations

The chief threat of the COIA proposal is the invitation of Congress to act as the architects of a completely new system of regulating college sports. Fortunately, every time this notion floats to the surface, it is blasted out of the water by the college presidents who, despite their roles as administrators of higher education, understand economic reality. COIA may understand it well, but never let good business sense get in the way of ideologically driven agendas:

"While the NCAA is demonstrating significant ability to regulate in the interests of higher education in the area of academic reform, it is prevented by antitrust laws from doing so in the area of economic regulation, and it has been amply demonstrated that schools are not able to do so themselves."

Member schools are the NCAA. Indianapolis has only the powers granted by the member schools. Whether you believe the current college sports model is sustainable or not, this system of governance must be maintained. The membership will determine how much regulation of college sports is enough. The membership will determine how much more or less regulatory power will be granted to the governing body, and any member school that is dissatisfied with the degree of regulation is free to disassociate with that body and form its own system of governance and regulation.

It’s not perfect, but freedom of association and and free enterprise are the best systems in the world. Nothing good has ever come from regulating either.

Note: Ten of the 14 current and future Southeastern Conference schools have faculty senates that are members of the COIA. They are Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Georgia, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee and Vanderbilt.

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