Give the Public What It Wants

“I would like to have the best comprehensive men’s and women’s programs that money can buy. However, we must be realistic. We must give the public what it wants; if we don’t, we will all be out of business.”

Author: Frank Broyles

Frank Broyles, director of athletics and head football coach at the University of Arkansas was actively involved in the special NCAA meeting in August. Broyles believes that most major football conferences would consider bolting the NCAA if “share the wealth” proposals were adopted. He argued for a separate division for major colleges under the umbrella of the NCAA, but not subject to the same policies as the smaller schools.

In the next few years I believe we will see a mass restructuring of college athletics. This process will be necessary because of two main reasons, the inflationary cost of fielding athletic teams and the recent legislation known as Title IX, just passed by Congress.

Many believe in the very near future college athletics will not resemble what we now know them to be. I am gravely concerned about the future but refuse to take a pessimistic point of view. I remain optimistic about college athletics. I believe that each year they will become more popular with the public and national attendance—particularly at football and basketball games—will continue to grow.

I believe that in these trying times, college presidents and athletic administrations will make wise and sound decisions. We need a restructuring of our universities and colleges into classifications that will not drag down those that enjoy big-time programs. At the same time, we must not handicap smaller schools which have sound, interesting programs.

It is imperative that we move our major college powers into a separate division; a separation of the major schools and smaller schools. The idea would not be split away from the NCAA, as some are suggesting. Major powers should remain under the umbrella of the NCAA, but they should not be subject to the same policies as the smaller schools. Such a division would require changes in some of the bylaws and constitutional amendments of the NCAA. Without such changes there would be no point in having such a division. The big powers and small powers don’t have the same things in common.

There are indications that the proposed division would have about 75 schools in it, including about 15 independents, and the membership of seven conferences—the Southwest, Big Eight, Big Ten, Pacific Eight, Southeastern, Atlantic Coast, and the Western Athletic.

Recent NCAA legislation has already produced rules that will save many dollars and not greatly hurt the two main revenue sports (football and basketball) by reducing them to a level where they would become uninteresting to the gate-paying public. I was particularly pleased that a majority of the NCAA body realized we should not “cut off the hand that feeds college athletics.” Drastic measures were not taken that would affect these sports. True, nonrevenue sorts would be hurt somewhat at some institutions; however, these sports would have suffered more had we passed severe rules that would have taken away the quality and attraction that the main revenue sports now enjoy.

The effect of Title IX, which deals with women’s athletics, is still unknown. I personally am for women’s athletics. If athletics are good for boys, they should certainly be good for girls. However, if men’s athletics are expected to pay for the women’s programs at most institutions, women’s athletics should be treated very much the same as our men’s nonrevenue sports which produce little or no revenue. Women’s sports like our men’s nonrevenue programs would be reduced to nothing if we “cut off the hands that feeds them.” Most college presidents will realize this and suggest a gradual advancement of their women’s programs in keeping with equal opportunity. If women’s athletics continue to grow and become as popular as some think they might, they will in turn produce revenue dollars and their programs can be expanded in the same manner as our men’s programs.

I would like to have the best comprehensive men’s and women’s programs that money can buy. However, we must be realistic. We must give the public what it wants; if we don’t, we will all be out of business. And the public wants men’s football and basketball, so we must field quality teams to support our overall athletic program.

The fact that the public demands excellence and will support nothing short of it has been proven with the decline of minor league baseball. No longer will the public support the minors when it can see major league teams in action as well as watch them on television. The public is no longer satisfied to see the young, unproven and undeveloped player as compared with the skilled major league player. If we let our college programs regress, we could lose our financial support to the pros. None of us wants this.