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Outside the Lines: The D-1 Dilemma

Host - Bob Ley, ESPN.
Guests - Mike Krzyzewski, Duke University basketball coach; William Bennett, Empower America
Coordinating producer - Jonathan Ebinger, ESPN.

Bob Ley, Host- The conventional view, the party line, is that in big-time college sports, everyone is a winner -- schools, players, fans. But that comfortable belief is challenged now by several studies suggesting just the opposite, that the athletic fast lane is hardly a benefit and in fact may be a threat to American higher education.

Today on Outside The Lines, we talk with Mike Krzyzewski and William Bennett about the Division One dilemma, whether athletic success is eroding academic excellence.

Announcer- Outside The Lines is presented by State Farm Insurance. Joining us from ESPN Studios, Bob Ley.

Ley- Round up the usual suspects. One of the more famous lines in American cinema can also be applied to many past discussions of the problems with big-time college athletics, predictable critics recycling familiar opinions.

This morning, just as important as the message is the messenger. James Duderstadt is a former president of the University of Michigan. During his eight years in charge, Michigan made three trips to the Final Four, winning one national championship, had four appearances in the Rose Bowl, and won an NCAA ice hockey championship. And Michigan apparel became the best selling of any school.

And after all that, Jim Duderstadt says American universities are being severely damaged by the sports entertainment industry that is college basketball and football.

Duderstadt's critique is in tune with a recent study by the Mellon Foundation comprising six years of research on 30 of the most elite universities and colleges. Their findings -- even in these top schools, athletes enjoy the greatest advantages for admission while under-performing at an increasing rate in the classroom.

Duderstadt's criticism is contained in a book he admits he could not have written as Michigan's president. And he says he's getting encouragement from sitting presidents who do not have the political cover to go public as he has decided to do. Let's listen to Jim Duderstadt.

Ley- These are your words. "The most corrosive example of entertainment culture, college basketball." Why?

James Duderstadt, President Emeritus, University of Michigan- Well, I think the point is that it has become so large in the eyes of the spectators, so important to the entertainment industry, to the people that are associated with it that it's been largely pried away from higher education. It no longer has any real relevance to the educational mission of institutions.

And its value structure, what is prized, what is set as goals are quite different than those characterized in an education institution such as university. So in that sense, it is corrosive. It kind of imposes on the university an alien set of values, a culture that really is not conducive to the educational mission of university.

Ley- But you took a delegation of Michigan people three times...

Duderstadt- That's true.

Ley- ... to the Final Four when you were the university president.

Duderstadt- And maybe that's where I had my epiphany as I sat there miles away from the court and saw rows after rows of reporters surrounding it, saw the hoopla that was really designed to boost the corporate, the promotional, aspects of it, and realized that it had very little to do with higher education as I understood it. It was a giant media event, certainly justified as public entertainment, but hard to justify as part of what university is all about.

Ley- So seeing it firsthand changed your mind.

Duderstadt- Very much. Very much.

Ley- You focus in on two sports. You identify college basketball, college football as the two sports that really are the basis of this problem. Who's to blame?

Duderstadt- Well, my sense is that there are a lot of people that you can put forward as scapegoats. And they range from coaches to athletic directors to the media to people that benefit like sports apparel (INAUDIBLE). But I really have to put the finger of blame at those who lead higher education institutions, university presidents, the faculty, to some degree the trustees because for whatever reason I think they have been co-opted by the very high visibility, the commercial character, of this and slipped into those set of values.

Let's maximize the bottom line profit. Let's pretend that winning provides more visibility for our institution.

Ley- Doesn't it?

Duderstadt- I think that's debatable. There is a two-edged sword here. To be sure, if you do things the right way and you're successful, you can achieve visibility. But we've seen many different situations in which the reputation of university has been seriously damaged.

Ley- You make the statement that the image of the Fab Five does not suggest academic prominence. What did you mean by that?

Duderstadt- Well, I think that's one of these issues where you have to question whether high visibility of big-time athletics does a university good or not. This was a group of extremely talented athletes. In fact, if you talk to people that know them personally, this was a group of really good kids.

But what they put across as this kind of in-your-face, very flamboyant culture, the dress style that they created, almost a street style of arrogance, that's not what you generally associate with a major academic institution. And in a sense, I think that turned certainly many of our alumni against the institution. And I think it may have turned a number of members of your community, the sports media, against us as well.

I really wonder even today whether many of the difficulties we're having with our basketball program when you're having many really go back to those days with this very visible, aggressive and almost arrogant style.

Ley- When Duderstadt took office, he instituted the Michigan Mandate, an aggressive affirmative action hiring and admissions policy. We will have more coming up from James Duderstadt.

But joining us to discuss the issue from Washington, DC, the former secretary of education and co-director of Empower America, William Bennett. And from Durham, North Carolina, Mike Krzyzewski, the head coach of the second-ranked Duke Blue Devils.

Mike, let me begin with you. You heard Jim Duderstadt talk about his trips to the Final Four, how they turned him cynical. You have made eight of them. I assume you'd like to respond to his argument.

Mike Krzyzewski, Duke University Basketball Coach- Well, I have empathy for him. What I hear him saying is that they didn't control their success very well. In other words, when I hear people say that they didn't like the way their players dressed and did things, my question is, well, why didn't you tell them to dress differently? Why didn't you control them better?

Certainly, schools do that. And if he feels that he did not do a good job in that, then don't condemn the whole basketball fraternity because they didn't have good control.

You know, athletics, I think you have to adapt to change. Our society is always changing. So is the educational mission of the school. And to say that sports is not a part of the educational system I think is the wrong statement. It should be part of the educational system. And it should be teamwork between -- among, I should say -- the administration, the coaches, the athletic director, the players to make sure that we're all on the same team.

Apparently in his case, he did not feel like they were all on the same team. And he hasn't managed well.

Ley- Let me bring in Bill Bennett.

Bill, what do you make of the fact that a man who ran one of the prime research universities in this country for eight years and saw all that athletic success now says it's not worth it?

William Bennett, Former Education Secretary- Well, I think that's a judgment to be made by the university community. And you can decide whether to have an out-front sports program, a leading NCAA top-division program or not. That's for the trustees and the universities, and in the case of the University of Michigan, the citizens of the state of Michigan to decide.

Ley- But do you agree with his assessment, though, it's a corrosive effect on higher education?

Bennett- Not necessarily. Let me make this point. You can set up a university without an athletic program at all. You know, we had wonderful universities in the Middle Ages, the University of Cologne, the University of Paris. They didn't have any football teams or basketball teams. They were great universities. That's your decision.

But the essential point I think is what Coach Krzyzewski said. If you're having trouble controlling your athletes, that's not a problem with an athletic program itself. That's a problem with the adults in charge, either your coaches or your athletic directors.

If it is part of the university, it seems to me it needs to be a place where teaching has to be done and where adult authority from time to time has to be exercised. Don't blame sports for your failure to control your kids.

Ley- We will have more with Mike Krzyzewski and Bill Bennett through this program. We'll also hear from Jim Duderstadt and his views on coaching salaries and TV money as we continue taking a look at the Division One dilemma on Outside The Lines.

Ley- There are 17 football coach on million-dollar or more salaries. Basketball coaches are the great personalities every winter. You said that athletics isn't part of university culture. Then certainly coaches you don't see as part of the university culture, do you?

Duderstadt- Well, coaches in theory should have as their fundamental activity teaching. I mean, after all, that's what really good coaches should be.

Ley- Well, that's out the window, isn't it?

Duderstadt- That's right. Well, but the point is that they have been reshaped into celebrities. They're part of a celebrity culture which is difficult to distinguish from the pros, for example. Many of the same characteristics you see, many of the same compensation levels apply.

And it does distort. It distorts the image of institutions I think. When the Oklahoma coach, when was it, after he beat Nebraska, his salary was doubled and his contract was extended. Well, what a terrible message to send out to the rest of the world.

Ley- Duderstadt also targets the media money that funds the sports entertainment industry.

Duderstadt- I was a member of the Big 10 Governing Board, the board of presidents, and shared it for a couple of years. And broadcasting contracts probably occupied 60 to 70 percent of our attention.

You folks have been enormous beneficiaries of college sports. But you pushed it in your own direction. I mean, the fact that we now ask students to compete on every night of the week, more and more football and basketball are shifting to Sundays. The schedules have been distorted.

The enormous hoopla that surrounds the NCAA basketball tournament, at a time for many institutions just before final exams, as at Michigan. It can destroy the young players' academic success.

I mean, the principle reason I think why many of the university presidents have been opposed to a playoff for big-time college football, Division 1-A, is because it occurs at the most critical part of the academic calendar. It occurs right around exam time.

Ley- Then why isn't there that same concern about March?

Duderstadt- Again, I think that that has been pretty much co-opted by the presidents. For a long time, the Big 10 and the Pac 10 resisted any kind of a post-season tournament just for that reason. Finally caved in. Again...

Ley- For money.

Duderstadt- ... For money, exactly. I think money drives them. And I would criticize the university presidents as really being more of a source of a problem, a source of the problem, than solutions.

I don't think they have to cave in to (INAUDIBLE). And again, my contention is that the more you make the more you spend anyway. I think this is the lure of more and more broadcasting income is the fool's press (ph) because you're just going to spend it.

Ley- And I'm joined again by Bill Bennett and by Mike Krzyzewski.

Bill, given the billions of dollars at stake here, all the ratings and the demand for this, is there a public appetite for any profound sense of reform?

Bennett- Probably not, although people would like to see a playoff system in college football, I think something like Final Four. But, no, I think people tend to like college sports.

I have to tell you, over the last 10 years, I have been drawn more and more back to college athletics away from the pros because I'm tired of strikes. I'm tired of these guys negotiating these deals, total lack of loyalty to individual teams. I'm a college fan.

The president makes a good point. There is an awful lot of money. And once again, the university needs to decide. Does it want the money? Is it worth it for the program? Is the big-time sport a net plus or a net loss?

But once again, as with the earlier point, money tends to corrupt. But it doesn't corrupt unnecessarily. It depends upon who's controlling the strings, what messages are being sent to those kids.

I submit to you, there are colleges and universities in this country that have excellent sports programs where the coaches are teachers, where the kids graduate. Well, you're talking to one not right now, but in a minute, with Coach Krzyzewski. And I think this is exemplary and admirable and what we should have.

One last point, which is college athletics is often a target for certain kinds of criticisms. They want to make college athletics the whipping boy.

I think the problems with college athletics dwarf with comparison to problems of political correctness on college campuses. You want to clean up your campuses, start with getting rid of political correctness and political orthodoxy. University of Michigan is a prime case in point.

Ley- Well, that was back in the late '80s with their speech rule.

Bennett- Oh, no, no, oh, it's still there. You check your departments.

Ley- Still going on. Well...

Bennett- You check your departments.

Ley- ... affirmative action, of course, is in the courts. But let's, Mike, talk about the arms race, the pressure to spend more to win more.

Krzyzewski- Well, things change, Bob. I mean, things cost more now than they did 10 years ago. And just because you want to get more money in, it's how you go about getting that money and how you spend it.

I take offense to the statement that we don't teach anymore. We not only teach our kids, but we teach people around our university community in how we act when we have discussions with them.

Right now, outside the room I'm in, there are over 1,000 kids in tents waiting to go to our games. That's a great collection of people. How do we use celebrity status?

Well, tonight I'll probably go over tonight and talk to those kids. I'll talk to them about what it is to be a Duke, what it is to share values together. And they'll listen.

And so it's a matter of how you use your resources. And if in Michigan's case during the president's tenure there they did not use them as wisely, then I feel badly for that. But my presidents here at Duke University have used them wisely. And I think I've seen that throughout the country.

We're part of the team. I think every coach out there, or most coaches, feel like they're part of the university team. I don't run this university. I'm one of the members of Nan Cohan's (ph) that's trying to make Duke University the best possible school it can be.

Ley- OK, we'll take a break right there. And we will continue more with Mike Krzyzewski and Bill Bennett, a former football player at Williams College. And we'll reflect on that, and smaller schools, as we continue.

Ley- And we are back with Bill Bennett and Mike Krzyzewski. Before we went to break, Bill, I mentioned your collegiate football at Williams not to drag out an old yearbook photo, but the Mellon Institute study looks at small schools. And your school was one of the 30 that were mentioned.

I had a conversation last week with the president of your alma mater. And he is concerned by the findings that athletes even at elite schools are getting more favors for admissions and under-performing in the classroom. And this is a study that's gone back for 20, 30 years of freshman classes, taking a look. And now it's worse, they say, than ever.

Bennett- Well, I've seen the study. And I must tell you that I think the graduates of places like Williams and Sporasmore (ph) and Haverford and Amherst (ph), most of them end up doing quite well. Sports are manageable at those institutions. At least they were when I was there. And I understand they still are.

And, again, I don't understand what the objection is. The student decides to give up straight As and pursue instead, maybe have B-pluses or A-minuses, and graduate from one of these colleges. I think that's a perfectly rational decision.

I wouldn't have traded my sports career there. I played rugby and football. It might have meant somewhat better grades.

But that was part of my educational experience. Our coaches were teachers. Programs were under control. What's the beef?

Ley- But do you have a sense of what it is now? Do you think it's changed now from the time you were there?

Bennett- What I read in the book was that there are more athletes there. A higher percentage of the kids are athletes. That's the kind of kids the college is looking for.

I do not think there is a major problem at these institutions that these authors think. I think there are major problems at these institutions in regard to teaching, in regard to the value put on research rather than the classroom and other things, which we've already mentioned. But, no, I do not see this as a major problem with college education.

Ley- Mike, one of the things that Jim Duderstadt has mentioned, and it's been a lightning rod for controversy and criticism from other parties, the commercialization through shoe apparel contracts. You've done very well with Nike through the years. People look at that and say here you have an outside entity putting money into the college program and having a financial obligation with you.

Krzyzewski- Well, there's no question that coaches make more money now than they did 10 years ago. And they'll probably make more money 10 years from now if things keep going the same way they are.

But I think a very simple solution to that is what we do at Duke is every contract that I have with an outside entity, Duke is a third party to that contract. In other words, my president has the right to say yea or nay to anything that I do.

And there is a clause in each one of my contracts that says that if anything is done detrimentally to the school that Duke can cancel that contract. And I'm in full agreement with that.

Like, I have to know that I am not a singular person here in contract with Nike. I'm part of a unit that's in contract with Nike. And I get a certain amount of money as a result of that. But the school still has control. And that's the key element.

Ley- But you're unique. Do you admit that you're unique in that regard?

Krzyzewski- No, I don't think I am. There's a rule in the NCAA that all contracts by coaches must be approved by their universities. So universities should not be in the dark about these things. Rather, maybe a leader doesn't take steps to say, "Hey, we're not going to get into this contract because it will put us in harm's way."

And so it's about leadership, Bob. As we grow, the money that's made through athletics and the exposure we get can be all good if we control it the right way. And at times we let it get out of control where we make decisions just based on money. And I think a university should not do that. It should make decisions based on principle.

And I found that to be the case here at Duke. And I found it to be the case at many schools throughout the country.

Ley- Bill, I saw you nodding in agreement as Mike made his point about leadership.

Bennett- Yeah, it is leadership that makes a difference. Look, when I was secretary of education, I called up a university president -- remain nameless -- because I read in the newspaper that the players on his football team living in what they called the animal kingdom, some separate dormitory, had roughed up the security guards after a big late party. They'd roughed up security guards on campus.

I called him up because the story said nothing happened. So I said to the president, how come nothing happened to these guys when they roughed up your own campus security? And his answer to me was, "Mr. Bennett, we're going for a national title."

Now that is horrible. That is terrible. That's not a problem with sports. That's a problem with sports on that campus with that president and that understanding of leadership.

He's teaching. But he's teaching all the wrong lessons. There are coaches, Coach Krzyzewski could name them, in basketball and football who have taught not just the kids on their own team, the kids all around this country, lessons when they have said, "You violated the rules, you're sitting down. I know you're the big star, but you're sitting down anyway." And that's a very important thing.

So think about choosing your coaches. But before you think about choosing your coaches, think about who you choose as president of the United States -- sorry, I am in Washington, just had an inaugural -- but think about who you choose as president of the university. And does that person have the guts to stand up to a coach who's making $1 million a year?

If you don't have somebody who does have the guts to stand up to that coach, make the kind of agreement Coach Krzyzewski was just talking about sounds very rational to me. The president says, "Look, I think that's contact is inconsistent with what this university is all about. I think that's fine." If you have somebody who's just going to fold to the coach or competition for a national title, you've got the wrong person.

Ley- OK.

Bennett- But don't pin that rap on sports.

Ley- Gentlemen, thanks so much. William Bennett, Mike Krzyzewski, thanks, guys, for being with us this morning.

Krzyzewski- Thank you.

Bennett- Thank you.

Ley- We appreciate it. Next, details of the chat. And one of the authors of the report at the heart of this morning's discussion as we continue. We'll be right back.

Ley- And if you joined us along the way this morning, our program will be re-airing over on ESPN2 at 12-30 Eastern, 9-30 a.m. Pacific time.

Next week, Super Bowl Sunday. Our look on Outside The Lines on Sunday morning will be a report on Super Bowl commercials, their impact, and exactly how some companies decide to roll the dice and spend big money for one shot to reach the American public.

Tonight, National Hockey night on ESPN. We've got Anaheim and Colorado at 8-00 p.m. Eastern. Two-hour "SportsCenter" coming back in 60 minutes, many of the reports coming from Tampa from the site of Super Bowl XXXV. Now to the ESPN Zone in Times Square, Dick Schaap and "The Sports Reporters." We'll see you.

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