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The runaway train



Published: Tue, February 1, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Seattle Times: The NCAA task force charged with emphasizing academics and fiscal responsibility in college sports is welcome news on several fronts.

The task force, likely to include Pac-10 university and college presidents, could have an impact even before the first meeting. Athletic departments are used to being their own fiefdoms. But with the task force there is a better than good chance that a school president is part of the body charged with dismantling fiefdoms.

NCAA President Myles Brand is leading the reform charge with the right amount of aggressiveness. He is firm on the point that college sports programs don't have to shrink but they do need to bring their growth more in line with colleges and universities. The athletic department, after all, is part of the school and not an independent subsidiary.

The Presidential Task Force on the Future of Intercollegiate Athletics is also a welcome signal that the NCAA is keeping up the pressure of the reform efforts begun last spring.

Faux-celebrity status

The extent that college programs lavished athletes with money and faux-celebrity status is mind-boggling. In a recent report, Seattle Times reporter Bob Condotta detailed the University of Washington's efforts in 2002 to recruit two football players. They took the recruits and their parents, plus some Husky coaches and players, out to dinner. The bill came to $1,666.14 -- or roughly $119 per diner. An expensive dinner, since, as Condotta points out, neither of the two recruits signed with Washington. Such ridiculous outlays are now thankfully banned.

But rules -- even those accompanied with a sizable stick -- simply moderate behavior. The task force has the potential to return a proper sense of proportion to college athletics.

It won't be easy. College sports is a big and lucrative business. Popular football and basketball teams can turn coaches into millionaires. They also subsidize other sports like tennis or swimming.

But reform is where this runaway train has to go.




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