College basketball is a big-time enterprise. From the thrill of March Madness to a potential future in the NBA, money plays a major factor in college basketball. While few would be surprised to learn that the money involved leads to bad actors and rule breaking, the recent news that the FBI and Justice Department are investigating and pursuing federal charges against a host of coaches, agents, and others is shocking. I firmly believe this investigation will have far reaching consequences. In today’s post, I want to share a recently published an op-ed that I wrote in the Texas Tribune’s TribTalk that discussed what higher education should do to clean up college basketball.
As the University of North Carolina continues to seek an end of the athletics controversy that has roiled campus for more than six years, the removal of a history class on athletics from the fall schedule has raised governance questions. I argued that much of the controversy at UNC centered around governance problems at the institution and the decision to cut the athletics course has many asking if UNC still has a governance issue on campus. In today’s post, I want to discuss the facts behind the case and the relevant governance issues at play in the case.
The current controversy is focused on the class, “Big-Time College Sports and the Rights of Athletes, 1956 to the Present.”
The NCAA has issued the formal Notice of Allegations (NOA) against the University of North Carolina related to the ongoing academic scandal at the institution. The allegations contain no major bombshells or smoking guns. Rather, the facts related to the case have been fairly well known for a while now. However, there is a point that has been lost in much of the blame, finger pointing, public relations maneuvering, and the thousands of words written about this issue. This point was clear in the NOA and must be acknowledged by all parties: UNC faculty lost institutional control of the academic integrity of the university.
I have written before about my belief that the scandal was the substantially a governance failing. I’ve also said that I don’t care about athletics or athletic penalties- I want to repair and restore the academic integrity of the university.
UAB President Ray Watts has announced that the institution is “taking steps” to reinstate the football program just six months after eliminating it. I wrote at the time that the move was the right decision for the wrong reasons. Although members of the UAB community are understandably thrilled with the reversal, I’m not. In fact, I believe the announcement was the wrong decision for the wrong reasons.
President Watts, Chancellor Robert Witt, and the University of Alabama trustees grossly misrepresented the original decision to cut football. They also dramatically underestimated the backlash that would result.
In recent years, debate has surrounded college athletic departments. Legal challenges have questioned why students aren’t getting more financial reward and a share of the revenues. Faculty and staff question the value and amount of money spent in support of athletics in an environment of scarce resources. Astronomical coaches salaries, massive facilities, and the churn of conference realignment make even the biggest fan question the future of intercollegiate athletics. In spite of the media exposure and interest, I am consistently surprised at how little we know about basic questions related to athletics. In today’s post, I want to address one of the most basic and misunderstood questions: Do college athletic departments make a profit?