NCAA president Mark Emmert says unionization won't solve problems
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The NCAA president called an effort to unionize players a ''grossly inappropriate'' way to solve problems in college sports while insisting the association has plans to change the school-athlete relationship.
Mark Emmert said Sunday that the NCAA wants to allow the big conferences with money-making teams to write their own rules, and those changes could solve many athletes' complaints more effectively than unionization.
''To be perfectly frank, the notion of using a union-employee model to address the challenges that exist in intercollegiate athletics is something that strikes most people as a grossly inappropriate solution to the problems,'' Emmert said at his annual news conference, held the day before college basketball's national championship.
|NCAA OPPOSED TO ONE-AND-DONE|
|ARLINGTON, Texas -- NCAA officials and Kentucky head coach John Calipari at least agree on something: The one-and-done rule in college basketball needs to be revised.
NCAA president Mark Emmert said during his annual news conference Sunday that he is in ''vocal opposition'' to the rule established by the NBA and its union that requires players be at least one year removed from high school before declaring for the NBA draft.
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby went further, saying ''the NFL and NBA have been irresponsible in not providing other legitimate opportunities for kids that really don't want to go to college.''
Calipari has said he favors a two-year period before players can declare for the NBA draft, even though his 2012 title team had three one-and-done players, and the team that he'll put on the floor in Monday night's national title game against UConn could have even more.
''As everyone knows here, this is enshrined in the labor agreement between the NBA and the NBA players, and not a rule that we have control over,'' said Emmert, who has spoken out against it in the past. ''I think everybody here knows my position on it.''
The age restrictions were put in place in 2005, two years after LeBron James joined players such as Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant on the none-and-done path to the NBA. While those players succeeded, many other high-schoolers declared for the draft and struggled.
The rules have been tweaked and scrutinized since then, and there is still no consensus on what system is best. Some prefer the baseball model, which gives high-school players the right to enter the draft immediately, but those that stay must wait three years. Others agree with Calipari that two years is appropriate, and still others believe that all age limits are ridiculous.
''I like the baseball rule,'' Bowlsby said. ''I like, 'Draft 'em out of high school or leave 'em go until after their junior year.' And I also think the NBA and NFL need to have some legitimate developmental program to allow people who don't want to go to college to go develop their skills.''
The one thing that everyone seems to agree upon, including Calipari and NCAA officials, is that the current model serves neither the players nor the college game.
''Every president I know, and every conference I know, is pretty adamantly opposed to that, and hopes that the NBA and the NBA Players' Association will make some changes,'' said Michael Drake, the chancellor at California-Irvine and the incoming president of Ohio State.
Calipari has grown weary of the attention his program gets for churning out one-and-done player. He has had 13 of them dating to his days at Memphis in 2006. He argues that he is simply playing with the hand that he's dealt, and that the players who do leave for the NBA after only one season are simply pursuing their dreams.
In fact, Calipari was so disgusted by the negative connotation associated with the term ''one and done'' that he offered an alternative this week: ''succeed and proceed.''
''Every player that I've recruited, and they will tell you, I say the same thing: 'Don't plan on coming to school for one year. You make a huge mistake,' '' Calipari said. ''But if after one year, you have options, that will be up to you and your family.
''Enjoy the college experience, enjoy the college environment, because the rest of it is work. It's not about family, it's about business. So enjoy it.''
-- Dave Skretta | The Associated Press
The NCAA has spent the past three years writing up plans to change its governance structure to allow the five biggest conferences to have different rules from hundreds of smaller schools. Because smaller schools have fought against costly changes such as paying athletes stipends, the independence of the big schools could break a logjam.
Although the issues have been simmering for years, they have drawn attention in recent weeks with a lawsuit filed by former athletes about to go to trial and a National Labor Relations Board director's ruling that Northwestern football players should be able to form a union.
If the NCAA loses the unionization fight or the lawsuit, filed by former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon, it could drastically alter the relationship between NCAA schools and 460,000 college athletes.
But, Emmert said, nothing the NCAA might do in the coming months will be a direct response to either of those legal cases: ''Those are conversations that have been going on for several years now,'' he said.
Neither Emmert nor the administrators who joined him for the news conference sounded overly concerned about drawing up contingency plans in case unions start sprouting up in the aftermath of the Northwestern case.
''There's 50 different sets of rules for 50 different states,'' Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said. ''So, we're a long way from having unions. I think about it a lot. Haven't spent any time talking about it. I'm not going to speculate on it. It's a long way down the road.''
Bowlsby and a panel that included presidents at Wake Forest, Kansas State and the future president at Ohio State agreed that many of the NCAA's thorniest issues, including paying athletes and improving their long-term health care, could be more easily resolved if the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC were given ''autonomy'' to draw up their own regulations.
''I think most of Division I memberships see that we're standing at a fork in the road,'' Kansas State president Kirk Schulz said. ''What we're going to put out there again is not perfect, but I believe that the vast majority of members recognize that some of these things must change and that we need to do it rapidly.''
The idea of giving the five big conferences autonomy -- lest they splinter off from the NCAA completely -- came up about three years ago after the full membership rejected Emmert's proposal for a $2,000 stipend for athletes that would help cover the gap between the value of a scholarship and the real cost of attending school.
Smaller schools, especially those that don't play football, can't afford that sort of stipend, while the bigger ones are trying to use some sort of pay-for-play model to keep peace with a growingly discontented group of players.
The biggest cash cow for the NCAA, however, is the basketball tournament that wraps up Monday. March Madness garnered a 14-year, $10.8 billion TV contract in 2010. The deal has grown increasingly lucrative through the years in large part because the tournament affords the little schools a chance to go up against the behemoths, and sometimes come out on top.
''We are committed to keeping ourselves in this one big division because of that,'' said Rita Cheng, chancellor at Southern Illinois, and the only small-school representative to appear with Emmert on Sunday. ''As long as we can know that we can be competitive in the tournament and that our athletes can have opportunities, it's appropriate for us to say, 'Your world is different than our world.' ''
Emmert conceded that many issues, such as the NBA's one-and-done rule, are beyond his control.
That's life in the NCAA, which has 351 Division I members, with many different agendas. Though Emmert disagrees with those whose legal maneuverings might undo the NCAA, he recognizes the need for some changes.
''It's a group that makes decisions in a ponderous democratic process,'' Emmert said. ''These people to my left are trying very much to change the decision-making structure, so they can make decisions more rapidly and address things in a more real-time way.''