Power Sweep in the NCAA
Money talks. And if there was ever a question about whether the NCAA listens, it was put to rest this week in Dallas at the organization's annual convention, where the 108 Division I-A universities—the "big-time football-playing schools" as they were often described during the discussions—gained more power over their smaller brethren and, perhaps, paved the way for a national football playoff.
The big schools have long complained about the one-school, one-vote structure which limits their control over such issues as scholarships, scheduling and, of course, postseason playoffs. And amid veiled threats from Division I-A schools that they might desert the NCAA if their Proposal 7 didn't pass, the delegates voted 777-79 to give the big fellows more control by allowing each NCAA division (I-A, I-AA, I-AAA, II and III) the power to make its own legislative decisions. In doing so, they dropped all pretense that college sports is not about the almighty dollar.
"What we're saying is that the NCAA is shifting its values, from the values of education to the values of corporate enterprise," says Bonnie Slatton, faculty representative from Iowa, whose president did vote for the measure. "This move makes it harder for us to say we're not just another form of professional sports."
The key to negotiating this new setup was a promise to the smaller schools that they would continue to receive millions from big-time television contracts and other live events. Delegates from smaller schools admitted that they had no choice but to accept Proposal 7. Had its rejection led to a mass exit by the big schools, the money would have dried up anyway.
Last year, despite support from presidents of several large schools, the NCAA's feasibility study for a Division I-A playoff was terminated after representatives of Divisions II and III voted against continuing it. Now that those small schools will have no say in the affairs of Division I-A, could a playoff be far behind? Probably not, because such a playoff would generate so-called new revenue, which, under Proposal 7, would not have to be shared with the smaller schools.
Does someone hear money talking?
Soccer's Height Report
If some international officials have their way, soccer may yet evolve into a higher-scoring sport. FIFA, the sport's international governing body, is seriously considering enlarging goals from 24 feet by 8 feet—the standard size since the 1860s—to 25'8" by 8'10". Proponents apparently believe that low scoring is not innate to soccer but a reflection of the fact that today's goalies are bigger and quicker. Some cite a 1990 study, Height, Health and History: Nutritional Status in the UK 1750-1980, which reveals that between 1865 and 1980 the average height of British males soared from approximately 5'6" to 5'10".
Since it's tough to shrink people and since there has long been clamoring for more scoring, the natural solution is to expand the goal. This has been tried before—in the U.S.'s United Systems of Independent Soccer Leagues, in 1994, and in the New England Small College Athletic Conference, in '91. Scoring, predictably, went up. But just as predictably, purists complained about messing with soccer's DNA, and the bigger targets were chopped down to size. There's also some fear that using larger goals on the international level would start a trend toward even bigger—if less agile—goalies. Says Andrew Caruso, president of Kwik Goal Ltd., a leading U.S. goal manufacturer, "If you increase the height and width, you're eventually going to get huge gorillas in goal."