NCAA advises schools to watch sports spending

WASHINGTON -- When the NCAA set out to improve graduation
rates among student-athletes, it established national standards and
penalties for teams that didn't comply. Shifting the focus from
academics to finances required a much more hands-off approach.

In a task-force report released Monday by NCAA president Myles
Brand, Division I schools were encouraged to rein in spending on
sports -- but there aren't any requirements everyone must adhere to
or punishments if they don't.

"In the case of academic reform, we had a hammer -- namely, by
teams not conforming, we could take away scholarships and, if that
failed, we could keep them out of the Final Four and postseason.
That's heavy duty. That's a sledgehammer," Brand said after
speaking at the National Press Club. "The fact is, we don't have
that for fiscal responsibility in intercollegiate athletics."

The task force of about 50 school presidents and chancellors was
formed in January 2005, and the report's release comes as the NCAA
is preparing its response to an Oct. 3 letter from Rep. Bill
Thomas, R-Calif., chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means
Committee. Thomas asked the NCAA to justify its tax-exempt status
and sought a reply by the end of October; the NCAA received a
two-week extension.

"We want to answer this in the most serious way, and I want to
make sure we have enough time to develop answers that are
accurate," Brand said.

Antitrust laws prevent the NCAA from mandating how much schools
can spend, Brand said, adding that because each situation is so
different, it wouldn't make sense for there to be broad rules
covering budgets for sports.

"A cookie-cutter approach will not work," Brand said.

So instead, Monday's report -- "The Second-Century Imperatives:
Presidential Leadership, Institutional Accountability," a
reference to the NCAA's centennial -- makes more than a dozen
recommendations, covering spending and how to make sports an
integrated part of campus life.

University presidents are offered suggestions and tools for how
to monitor and moderate spending on sports. Brand said there will
be more transparency.

"You can read it, whether you're from a small school or from a
very large school like ours, and find things in it that you can
comply with, that you can disagree with, and in some cases things
that you can't afford and in other cases things that you can
afford," said Ohio State president Karen Holbrook, a task force
member. "Sometimes guiding people as opposed to pushing people or
telling them what to do is more effective."

The task force also put forth two ideas but stopped short of
endorsing them:

• adding a fifth season of eligibility;

• allowing athletes in all sports who transfer after freshman
year to be eligible immediately, without sitting out a season.

Brand insisted there is no fiscal crisis in Division I college
sports, but he did say there is "clearly stress in the system and
the stress is almost certain to increase without corrective

While general university spending rises about 3 to 4 percent
annually, spending on Division I sports is rising as much as 12
percent, Brand said.

"You need to design programs that moderate the rate of
increase," he said.