By Paul Myerberg, USA TODAY Sports
NEW YORK — The sanctions levied upon Penn State’s athletic department in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal were “right and appropriate,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said Thursday during a meeting with the Associated Press Sports Editors, adding that where the national governing body struggled was in communicating with the university and its member institutions during the investigative process.
“I remain pleased with where the executive committee wound up in that case,” he said. “I think that if you turn back time what you could control differently is handle the communication differently.”
Perhaps as a result, Emmert said, the NCAA’s ruling in the case became entangled with the decisions made by Penn State’s Board of Trustees, which included firing longtime football coach Joe Paterno.
The university fired its president, athletic director and “one of the most iconic head coaches in America all in one shot,” he said, “and people were mad at us. Really?”
Said Emmert, “I think communication could have been handled a lot better. Certainly I could have done that a lot better. But the reality is it was a very, very difficult circumstance for the university. I think the executive committee wound up in the right place.”
Among other topics discussed by Emmert with APSE:
–Emmert called the current era of NCAA athletics “one of the most interesting and probably dynamic moments in the history of college sports.”
Interest has never been higher, he added, citing the record number of viewers and attendees at this year’s Final Four.
But major events such as the Final Four and the College Football Playoff still dominate the topic of conversation, even if the two primary sports – football and men’s basketball – constitute just 3% of college sports, he said.
–In 2011, the NCAA proposed a rule allowing a $2,000 stipend for student-athletes. Member institutions nearly universally shot down that proposal, Emmert said.
Cost of attendance remains a hot-button topic among universities, particularly in the idea that such a measure, if adopted, would widen the gap between resource-heavy athletic departments and their smaller counterparts.
“Some schools are going to have to decide, do we want to allow full COA in our conference,” Emmert said. “And then individual schools will have to decide, are we going to go that high?”
–NCAA investigators “get tips constantly” about potential infractions, Emmert said.
“It’s amazing what competitors will do to try and get their competitors in trouble.”
But it’s harder to cheat today “than it’s been in a long time,” he added.
“Ask (coaches) what cheating looked like in the 1980s compared to today. Everyone I talk to will say, ‘Oh my God, it’s so much worse.’”
–The NCAA has been “heavily involved” in the conversation regarding freshman ineligibility, which has been forwarded on a national stage by Big Ten Conference Commissioner Jim Delany.
“I’m really pleased that the Big Ten presidents want to at least have the conversation about it, because it’s worth having,” he said.
But using potential ineligibility to get rid of one-and-done basketball recruits is “like taking a sledgehammer to a mosquito,” said Emmert.
“The real question we need to address is, are students sufficiently serious about being students as well as athletes, and are they sufficiently prepared to be successful as a student as well as an athlete.”
One of the biggest problems for one-and-done recruits is a lack of “good, realistic, objective information” about their professional potential,” he said, citing a study that found that 75% of Division I, 50% of Division II and about a quarter of Division III basketball players believe they’ll make a living playing professionally.
“They’re not stupid kids,” Emmert said, “but they’re deluded about what their future holds in basketball.”
–Where Emmert stands on one-and-done recruits: “My position is a young man or woman shouldn’t have to go to college to become a professional athlete. If they want to come to college to become a better athlete and get a degree, then come on.
“But to force somebody to go to college that has no interest in being with college makes a travesty of the whole notion that that’s a college athlete. I would love to work with anybody in the pro leagues to provide a system that makes that work.”
The best model is in college baseball, said Emmert, which allows recruits to turn professional right out of high school and enter the minor leagues, or enroll in college and become ineligible for the MLB draft until after their third season on campus.
“I want kids to come to college to become educated, and if they want to become better athletes, great. But if they just want to get to the NBA as quickly as possible, don’t come.”