June 18, 2013, 12:20 pm
How much harm might the NCAA face if Ed O’Bannon and a potential class of thousands of college athletes were to prevail in their federal antitrust case?
I put that question to a half-dozen legal scholars while reporting on the former UCLA player’s complaint over the past few days, and I found a mixed response. Although several predicted potentially dire consequences for the association, including one who said it could “threaten the entire NCAA business model,” others were far less certain of any negative effect.
There hasn’t been much gray area in the hundreds of articles on the case, which is set to go before a federal judge in California on Thursday for consideration of class-action status. The plaintiffs, who argue that they have a right to millions of dollars in revenue from the sale of video games and other commercial products, could have the potential to win damages into the …
June 12, 2013, 4:55 am
The NCAA slapped postseason bans on 18 Division I teams on Tuesday for failing to meet its academic-progress requirements. All but three of those teams are at historically black colleges, continuing a troubling pattern among less-wealthy institutions.
Since introducing the Academic Progress Rate 10 years ago, the NCAA has set aside some $6-million to help historically black and largely minority institutions improve their numbers. Few people think that’s enough, in part because money is only part of the problem.
Many less-wealthy programs lack the wherewithal to monitor players the way big athletic departments do. One Southeastern Conference institution, for example, has 16 full-time academic-support staff members to help athletes stay on track to graduate. Academic advisers at that level make frequent contact with faculty members and coaches, and know exactly how many academically …
June 9, 2013, 9:51 pm
Jacksonville, Fla. — It’s been a challenging couple of years for the people who oversee academic support for big-time athletes, as high-profile problems have cast aspects of their profession in a negative light.
Late last week, academic advisers from around the country gathered here for their annual convention. Many defended the industry even as it faces renewed questions about the appropriate definition of academic fraud and whether the NCAA should have an increased role in enforcing it.
Those questions took on fresh meaning on Saturday, as The News & Observer revealed newfound ties between advisers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a former leader of its department of African and Afro-American studies, who departed last year amid allegations of impropriety.
According to e-mails obtained by the Raleigh newspaper, members of North Carolina’s…
June 5, 2013, 8:55 pm
Eddie Vanderdoes made headlines on Tuesday when he backed out of the National Letter of Intent he had signed to play football at Notre Dame. The 18-year-old defensive tackle from Auburn, Calif., broke the agreement so he could attend UCLA, where he will be closer to his family.
Notre Dame refused to release Vanderdoes from the agreement, so he must forfeit a year of eligibility before suiting up for the Bruins.
The National Letter of Intent—which one Sports Illustrated writer referred to this week as the “worst contract in American sports”—gives almost all the power to colleges in the high-stakes recruiting game. Once players sign the agreement, they forgo the right to be recruited by other colleges and face strict limits on transferring.
NCAA rules do not require players to sign a letter of intent, but many institutions ask athletes to do so when they sign their scholarship…
June 3, 2013, 9:10 am
Turnover has always been a part of major-college basketball, but the pressure to win—and win now—has only intensified in recent years. That pressure has led to increasing fallout among coaches, I found as I researched this week’s cover story.
Over the past five years, more than 230 head-coaching positions in Division I men’s basketball have turned over, affecting nearly two-thirds of big-time programs. Eighteen institutions actually changed coaches twice in the past five years, while two universities—Florida International and Texas Tech—have gone through three head coaches in that time.
Rus Bradburd, who spent 14 years as a Division I assistant men’s basketball coach before becoming an author and professor, says many people are complicit in that churn, including coaches who constantly reach for the next-biggest stage. But he lays much of the blame on college presidents.
May 30, 2013, 2:47 pm
Jarmere Jenkins had a chance to pull off a rare tennis trifecta this week, as he reached the final round of the NCAA Division I men’s singles and doubles championships and led his University of Virginia team to the finals of the team event.
I first met Jarmere more than a decade ago, when I wrote a profile of his family for Tennis magazine. At the time, he was a precocious 10-year-old living with eight siblings in the family’s modest home in College Park, Ga.
Tennis was only part of what made them special. Jarmere’s parents, Jackie Sr. and Brenda, adopted six of their children, including many from pretty tough backgrounds. Two were born with drug addictions, and another pair was legally blind. Here’s an excerpt from an article I wrote about them in 2011:
I watched Mrs. Jenkins, who insisted on bringing all the extra kids into the home after nurturing them through foster care, get …
May 23, 2013, 10:17 pm
After reading my post this week about safety concerns on a charter flight taken by Stanford University’s softball team, Mark Lewis took it upon himself to look into the matter.
Mr. Lewis, the NCAA’s executive vice president for championships and alliances, oversees the staff that arranges postseason travel for all 89 championships, and he was disturbed by what he found—but not because of the airplane’s safety record.
He was bothered by what he saw as an inaccurate portrayal of the airplane (pictured above) and a misrepresentation of the association’s track record of providing safe travel. He also dismissed the notion, also raised in the article, that cost considerations dictate decisions involving NCAA-scheduled travel.
The airplane in question, which a Stanford official had described as a “rickety old prop plane” without enough room to carry the team’s equipment, actually has…
May 20, 2013, 2:57 pm
As Stanford University was wrapping up play this weekend in an NCAA regional softball tournament in Nebraska, Cardinal officials got on the phone with the NCAA to arrange a flight back to Palo Alto, Calif.
Their job: Get their 30 or so players and staff members home as quickly and safely as possible following their last game on Sunday, as thunderstorms were rolling through the Midwest.
The NCAA, which covers the cost of travel for teams during its postseason championships, lined up a charter flight to get the Stanford women back in time for classes on Monday. That seemed like good news for team members, until they saw the plane.
If you assume “charter” means first-class travel, let this tweet from Stanford’s Kevin Blue disabuse you of that idea:
Hard to believe that @NCAA sent us on a prop plane for a 4.5 hr flight from Nebraska to San Jose (!). In Grand Junction, CO getting…
May 20, 2013, 10:00 am
A few weeks ago, when my colleague Jonah Newman and I reported on colleges’ reluctant adoption of multiyear athletic scholarships, we avoided going into detail about one concern that several critics raised.
“The bigger failure is not that the school isn’t adopting” multiyear aid, John Infante, a former compliance officer at Colorado State University, told us, “but that we’re not seeing this market develop where kids know there is the potential for multiyear scholarships and negotiating for that.”
Now there’s more evidence that students aren’t getting the message. As part of a separate report on the distribution of multiyear aid in big-time athletics, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette interviewed 30 people who could benefit from the longer scholarships, including recruits and coaches. Only 12 of them knew that the awards existed.
Six of the eight Penn State University football…
May 16, 2013, 4:57 am
Shortly after Rutgers University named Julie Hermann as its next athletics director on Wednesday, I got a note from my colleague Libby Sander. She reminded me of a candid conversation she had with Ms. Hermann two years ago for her analysis of the scarcity of female athletic directors in the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision.
Ms. Hermann, a longtime No. 2 at the University of Louisville who has helped drive that athletic department’s fast growth, will become one of only five female ADs among the 125 FBS programs. For those of you keeping score, that’s 4 percent of positions at the NCAA’s elite level—the same meager number we reported two years ago.
There are plenty of reasons so few women have cracked the glass ceiling in college sports, including a stubborn old-boys’ network that dictates many hiring decisions. Here’s more from our 2011 report:
Some critics say women are often by…