The answer to the scandal of big time college sports is not less professionalization but more. Tear down the extremely frayed curtain that ineffectively and hypocritically separates the defunct world of the student-athlete from the world of sports as big business. Providing athletes with a modest salary, proposed as a solution to a host of problems, has p is the proverbial bandage on a gaping wound. Treat college basketball and football at the 100+ universities who are deeply into it as the auxiliary enterprises that they are, no difference than university conference centers. research corridors, or think tank, though far better known and far more lucrative. Let the universities who want in on the action create a NFL/NBA style commissioner and administration that can negotiate TV deals, set salary caps and eligibility standards, run the season schedules and playoff system, and work toward achieving competitive balance. Call this new enterprise the PCAA (or Professional Collegiate Athletic Association) and follow the lead of the South East Conference, arguably the conference closest to full professionalization. Let the purified NCAA regulate the minor sports in Division I and all sports in division II and III, thus making it possible to have an honest student-athlete model. This new NCAA, the saving remnant, can help schools not chasing the almighty dollar end their imitation of big time college sports in the form of extensive travel outside the region and the staging of national championships.
The final absolutely necessary step would be to uncouple academic registration from participation in big time basketball and football. If the athlete wants to enroll in the university whose name is on his jersey, let him do so following the admission requirements that apply to the ordinary student. Let top performers – whether enrolled or not – earn as much as $250,000. In one fell swoop you would get rid of 99% of the infractions that the NCAA currently monitors. No players selling their jerseys, no academic cheating scandals, no special athletic dormitories, no cadre of tutors helping uninterested athletes stay eligible, no silly rules regulating the frequency of campus visits by prospective players. What would be lost? Not the support of the alumni who fill the seats and write the checks and care much more about a player’s PPG than his GPA. Not the deals with the apparel manufacturers who will fill the university coffers with even more money. Not the patronage of the inebriated students who paint their faces and tear down the goal posts when a classmate that they never see in their classrooms scores the winning TD. The only loss will be a healthy one: the loss of our mass delusion that Johnny Football cares a fig about being a student and that the university has its over-sized and vulgar programs under control.