Rich Man, Poor Man

“It is obvious that I am concerned about the athletically rich getting richer while the poor are getting poorer . . . I do not want to see an intercollegiate athletic scene in the 1980’s where Notre Dame will have to play a major school two or more times during the season because there is no other competition around.”

Author: Stephen Horn

Stephen Horn, president of Long Beach State University, was an active participant in the August NCAA meeting. One of his most controversial proposals would force large schools to share their television profits with the other schools in the NCAA. Horn became interested in athletics when he learned that the NCAA was investigating his school’s athletic program several years ago. He has remained interested, he says, “because, frankly, I couldn’t spare the time for another investigation.”

The year of 1976 could be the turning point for intercollegiate athletics. At the January convention of the National Collegiate Athletic Association in St. Louis, delegates will be faced with a multitude of issues ranging from further economy measures to the opportunities to be made available for women participants.

In America’s bicentennial year, the NCAA will be 70 years of age. It was started at the behest of President Theodore Roosevelt and a group of college presidents in an attempt to bring some sanity and prudence to the excesses of intercollegiate athletics which were occurring at the turn of the century. Over the years presidential interest has dwindled as directors of athletics and university athletic representatives make the annual pilgrimage to a convention city to legislate on several hundred complex proposals and amendments whose language makes your insurance policy seem like McGuffey’s Reader.

Only two college presidents attended the 1974 convention. Twenty-six were in attendance in 1975 and hopefully we will have 50 to 100 at the 1976 convention.

The increase in presidential participation does not mean that there is a “presidential” line that is followed, for the presidents from major, medium, and small athletic powers will probably continue to defend those respective interests. But there is an opportunity for reaching an accommodation on the balance which should exist in intercollegiate athletics and the respective rules of men and women in such programs.

I first became interested in the NCAA and its activities when Long Beach was involved in a series of infractions in its football and basketball programs. It was apparent to me that if some ethical standards were to be maintained in intercollegiate athletics something more was needed than the blunderbuss approach of institutional sanctions which hurt the opportunities for many innocent student athletes.

What was needed was a process by which sanctions could be imposed on individual coaches or assistant coaches so that they would not cut every corner to field a winning team and when caught move on to another NCAA institution. An amendment was adopted at the 1975 NCAA Convention which provided that after a fair hearing at institutional and NCAA levels, a coach who violated the NCAA’s principles of ethical conduct could be barred from coaching for up to two years at all NCAA member institutions.

Since that convention a number of us have discussed the other problems which confront intercollegiate athletics. Many of them relate to costs but they are also a matter of philosophy. I am concerned that unless some constructive actions are taken soon, more and more so-called “minor” sports and even a few “major” ones will go under in the effort of many member institutions to maintain a particular level of football competition.

I fail to see why until this year 105 grants-in-aid were needed in order to play two-platoon competitive “big-time” football. Prior to the special convention on economy held in Chicago in August, the NCAA Council (the athletic establishment) recommended that the grants for football be cut to 90. The supposedly “economy-minded” delegates from the 129 Division I schools could not even accept that. Grants for football were reduced to 95. Obviously, my attempt to reduce grants from 105 to 65 over three years got only 30 votes out of 120 or so voting.

I am convinced that the fans of Notre Dame, Michigan and Stanford will still turn out to watch 65 student athletes. The NCAA tripped itself up when it limited the number of football players who could suit up at home to 60 and the number who could travel to away games to 48. Those are absurd policies. If a young man is playing for his school, he should have the opportunity to wear its jersey at home or away on Saturday afternoons and not simply be the raw meat used in practice during the week. The way you cut travel costs is to cut the total number of student athletes an institution may have on its football team. That would mean more competitive football in America since there would be less reason to “red-shirt” and to stack up student athletes who might have an opportunity to play for a competitor. The talented athletes who warm the benches at man of the major institutions are a sad commentary on the ethics of many in present-day intercollegiate athletics.

It is obvious that I am concerned about the athletically rich getting richer while the poor are getting poorer. It has been estimated that only 10 per cent of the football programs in America are making money. I do not want to see an intercollegiate athletic scene in the 1980s where Notre Dame will have to play a major school two or more times during a season because there is no other competition around. It won’t be that bad, I hope, but unless something is done—and done soon—more and more institutions will be dropping football or dropping everything else to preserve football.

I believe that the NCAA should further the interests of all of its members—those in Division II and II as well as all of those in Division I—rather than simply respond to the pressures of the major powers in Division I. NCAA institutions should consider a more equitable distribution of television receipts. Of the almost 700 institutions in the NCAA, about 450 play football, but only 129 of those are in Division I. The NCAA television package with the ABC network currently amounts to $16 million annually. In the guise of equity, games are selected which are not that popular with the viewing public. As a result, it is difficult to increase the amount of advertising income. In the 1974 football season, 54 institutions played under that plan and 113 received some income through various “flow-through” and “share-the-wealth” conference arrangements. Notre Dame, which is not in any conference, could bank all of its share from various television appearances. Except for the Division II championship game, the rest of the NCAA does not profit from the glories of the Division I superpowers. In fact, more and more small colleges throughout America have simply tossed in the towel as they have been blanked out by the steady procession across the television tube on a Saturday afternoon.

Under the amendments I have proposed, the institution which participates in a televised game would receive compensation at a rate of four-to-one over those who did not; but at least all NCAA football-playing institutions would benefit. Approximately $12 million of the $16 million in the seasonal television package and $4 million of the $8 million now derived from bowl television would be allocated to provide every football-playing Division I institution with $64,000 annually; those in Division II would receive $34,000; those in Division III, $21,000. Under this approach you would not have to offer the illusion of equity which seems to drive away many of the advertisers. In fact, Notre Dame could be televised every week—if it were Number 1 and that’s what the viewing public wanted to see. Only now, Number 1 and other televised teams would also be playing to help all of the NCAA’s football-playing institutions.

If such revenue sharing is too much for the 70-year-old NCAA to adopt, then perhaps it might consider using a portion of the television income to underwrite the insurance costs borne by the athletic programs of its member institutions and to pay for many of the NCAA championships which now lose money.

But it is not simply money problems which confront NCAA members, it is also the growing pressure being exerted by women student-athletes. Title IX of the 1972 Higher Education Act has awakened colleges and universities to the fact that for years women’s athletics have received little financial support—and on many campuses that was raised through bake sales!

On campus after campus, men’s and women’s intercollegiate athletics are being merged in order to utilize limited resources more effectively and to provide consistent policy guidance. Increasingly, there is a need for one group which regulates American intercollegiate athletics for both men and women. Now the AIAW (Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women) and the NCAA both legislate in their respective areas. Perhaps there should be an integration of both organizations or at a minimum a restructuring of the NCAA so that at least one of every two or three delegates is a woman and can speak for the female student-athlete.

Women’s intercollegiate athletic programs are already being driven through the grant-in-aid crossroad. The year of 1976 will be the one to face up to the direction in which all intercollegiate athletic programs are headed and to formulate the approach, organization and policies at both the campus and national levels so some balance and equity will result.