Thursday, January 13, 2011
NCAA president calls for new rules
SAN ANTONIO -- NCAA president Mark Emmert on Thursday called for new rules so parents no longer "sell the athletic services" of their children in the wake of backlash following the investigation into Auburn quarterback Cam Newton.
Emmert didn't mention the Heisman Trophy winner during his first state of the association speech at the NCAA's annual convention. But he said the NCAA could vote on new enforcements early as April.
"It's wrong for parents to sell the athletic services of their student athletes to a university, and we need to make sure that we have rules to stop that problem," Emmert said. "And today we don't. We have to fix that. Student athletes trading on their standing as star student athletes for money or benefits is not acceptable, and we need to address it and make sure it doesn't happen."
Emmert didn't suggest what new rules might look like. But he said the measures must be clear so that the public understands what's a violation and what isn't.
At the same convention, the NCAA squashed a proposal that would have stopped college coaches from offering scholarships to students as young as middle-schoolers, one of several closely watched measures that were either defeated or set aside by NCAA rule-makers.
Emmert, who took over from interim president Jim Isch in October, led his first convention with the NCAA besieged by criticism for its handling of several college football scandals this season.
In the Newton case, the NCAA ruled the junior college transfer could continue playing for the eventual BCS national champions, even though his father had been seeking money from schools recruiting him.
That was followed by the NCAA suspending five Ohio State players for five games next season for selling memorabilia items, but still allowing them to play in the Sugar Bowl.
Critics assailed the NCAA of being selective with enforcement and the severity of punishments handed down. So intense was the scrutiny that the NCAA took the unusual step last month of defending its rulings on it website, saying it does not play favorites or make decisions based on financial considerations.
Speaking to reporters after his speech, Emmert said it's a matter of clarity.
"If you look at the Newton case, a lot of people came away from that, because it's a complicated case, saying, 'Gosh, it's OK for a father to solicit money for the services for his son or daughter?' " Emmert said. "The answer to that is no, it's isn't. But we don't have a rule that makes that clear."
Emmert said discussions relating to future Newton-type cases is one of about five enforcement issues the NCAA could vote on by April during its board of directors meeting in Indianapolis.
Seizing on the Ohio State incident -- while not specifically mentioning it -- Emmert said the NCAA needs to review and make public who gets to play in bowl games when violations occur. He also said the NCAA will take another look at the relationships between players and agents.
"Student athletes are students. They're not professionals, and we're not going to pay them," Emmert said. "And we're not going to allow other people to pay them to play."
The legislative council also voted down tougher academic restrictions for incoming basketball players. Another proposal intended to tighten the use of college athletes in promotional activities was sent back to NCAA members for more comment.
The defeat of the early scholarship proposal came after another NCAA committee last year backed the idea. It would have prohibited scholarships offers in all sports to recruits before July 1 in the summer between their junior and senior years in high school.
"The concern is how is that enforceable? You don't want to adopt legislation you can't enforce," said Shane Lyons, chairman of the legislative council and the ACC's associate commissioner.
The issue has drawn headlines when some men's basketball coaches started making offers to middle school players. Lyons imagined the proposal creating a constant cycle of flung allegations over schools secretly promising young athletes scholarship offers.
"There would be allegations all the time," he said.
The issue involving likeness of student athletes could be revisited in three to four months, Lyons said. Under the proposal, schools would have greater autonomy to use the likeness of their most recognizable stars in school and charitable promotions.
Lyons called it one of the "hottest topics" that the NCAA will continue to discuss over the next three to four months.
"There's some concern of potential exploitation and more and more uses of the student athlete's likeness," Lyons said.
In other council decisions, a proposal to move the date players can withdraw from the NBA draft and return to school from late May to mid-April was sent out for more comment. So was a proposal prohibiting players from opting out of the sickle-cell trait test.