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College Sports, Education

A Response to Robert L. King’s Inside Higher Ed Column, “Reform the NCAA Rulebook”

Robert L. King, president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, wrote an August 4, 2011, column, “Reform the NCAA Rulebook”, on the Inside Higher Ed website. The piece was initiated on “University of Kentucky Basketball Coach John Calipari’s recent suggestion about abandoning the National Collegiate Athletic Association and creating a new structure for Division I athletics”. Mr. King noted “for many years [he has] been troubled by the growing disconnect between the NCAA and the athletic programs it is to govern, the students it is to serve, and the fans whose support is vital to the continued viability of intercollegiate sports”. Mr. King predicted “as that gap grows wider, it is inevitable that suggestions like Calipari’s will multiply, and that the future of the NCAA will become clouded”. Mr. King relied on various anecdotal examples to show why the NCAA Manual is too complex and contains unnecessary rules. Mr. King concludes his column by noting “this is not a call for the end of the NCAA. But I do argue that the NCAA needs to rethink its current rule book, and redraft a set of rules that focus on what actually matters: honest competition, the prohibition of performance enhancing substances, fair recruiting practices, and competent and safe treatment of student athletes. All the rest deserves to be trashed”.

I have never been one to be the biggest defenders of the NCAA. I believe several NCAA practices need to be reformed or eliminated, including the enforcement process. However, Mr. King misses one very important factor in his analysis of the NCAA rulebook. Namely, the presidents and athletics administrators he claims are frustrated with NCAA rules are the very ones that make the rules. The “NCAA” is comprised of the member institutions–the colleges, universities and athletics conferences. Representatives of member institutions are appointed to committees and cabinets, which review legislation that is proposed by member institutions. For example, in Division I, legislative proposals that are passed by majority vote in one committee or cabinet are forwarded to the next higher body until it is passed or failed by the Legislative Council and the Board of Directors. Even legislation that passes or fails can be defeated or resurrected subsequently by the membership with an override vote or with the introduction of a legislative proposal. The NCAA staff interprets and enforces the rules the members pass. Essentially, the NCAA practices the core elements of democracy. Thus, I cannot agree with Mr. King’s argument. I have to back the NCAA on this one.

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About Michael L. Buckner, Esquire

An attorney who provides clients with internal investigation, civil litigation, estate planning and compliance services.

Discussion

4 thoughts on “A Response to Robert L. King’s Inside Higher Ed Column, “Reform the NCAA Rulebook”

  1. Mr. King does address your point as follows:
    “There are some who point to the institutions as the source of these problems, in that the NCAA exists by virtue of the institutions that are its members. Indeed, the governing bodies of the NCAA are composed of campus presidents and athletic directors. But, as is the case at so many organizations, the permanent staff and the chief executive wield enormous power and influence over the deliberations of their volunteer boards.”

    I have to agree with Mr. King. The NCAA has lost all credibility. The rulebook must be changed significantly and the enforcement function needs to be stripped away from the NCAA to given to an independent third party organization that does not have the same conflicts of interest and bias.

    Posted by George Orten | August 4, 2011, 10:22 am
  2. Mr. King does not offer any proof of his theory. I doubt Mr. King has ever attended an NCAA committee meeting. I have. The most powerful members of the NCAA are not the president and staff, but the major conferences and BCS institutions. For example, if the NCAA president and staff have so much power and influence, the NCAA would have established a football championship (the BCS conference commissioners will not permit that to happen at this point).

    Posted by Michael L. Buckner, Esquire | August 4, 2011, 10:29 am
    • I can tell by this exchange that you are one of those tenacious barristers that is NEVER wrong. You may win the argument but lose respect of others in the process, although I would guess that you are not concerned with that consequence.

      Posted by Amici for Robert L. King's NCAA Article | August 4, 2011, 10:49 am
      • No, I am wrong a lot and, when I am, I admit it. My prior post was to provide context for my position, as well as an example of why the NCAA president and staff are not as powerful as conventional wisdom believes. I am not an NCAA defender and am highly critical of the organization. However, to place the blame on the NCAA president and staff without acknowleding the university presidents, athletic directors and conference commissioners are not complicit does not provide a complete look at what is wrong and what needs to be fixed with the system.

        Posted by Michael L. Buckner, Esquire | August 4, 2011, 10:59 am

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