He had no idea. Ninety years on, the Association still whips up Powder Elixir Balms to cure sports and promote healthy competition from a chilling office in the Land of Oz.
A flowchart of the NCAA hierarchy does not flow at all. In fact it makes the Kremlin look uncomplicated. The Association has about 90 committees, including two committees on committees. An arcane restructuring takes effect this August and is designed to give more power to school presidents. But even Dempsey concedes that any major legislation would take at least three years to pass through the new machinery. There will be a new millennium before there is a new NCAA.
"Where do I see the NCAA going?" says Kansas athletic director Bob Frederick when that question is put to him. "Do you mean literally?"
Touché. The Association's lease on 6201 College Boulevard expires in 2000, and Dempsey envisions a new, friendlier national office in the next century. He speaks of a campuslike environment in which educators, coaches and student-athletes might drop by for seminars—a place where the drawbridge is always down. Byers made metropolitan Kansas City the seat of college athletics in 1952, largely because Kansas was his home state. But last September, Dempsey, as CEOs will, invited each of 10 cities to make a sweetheart offer to become the next home of the NCAA. In December the field was reduced to a Final Four: Dallas-Fort Worth, Denver, Indianapolis and Kansas City. The winner gets the Association's 250 jobs and the all-eyes-on-us prestige of the men's Selection Sunday each March. The NCAA expects to choose this spring.
Many NCAA staffers are troubled by the possible relocation, and not simply because they don't care to uproot. "There's something a little distasteful to me about an organization of higher education putting itself out to bid," says Bork. Another employee estimates that nine out of 10 staffers are opposed to the move.
No one disputes that a move is good business. But any profitable exercise in college athletics is often seen as evil, just as amateurism is viewed as moral, when it is nothing of the sort. "The root of all this," says William Gerberding, president emeritus of the University of Washington, alluding to many of the problems of college athletics, "is a sentimental and naive but ultimately self-serving conception of amateurism. The people who foisted amateurism off on us as a great ideal in the revived Olympic movement were English aristocrats." In fact, ancient Greek Olympians were paid. And so are modern Olympians. "It is just a set of rules," NCAA chief operating officer Dan Boggan says of amateurism.
College presidents have thus far resisted a football championship because it would be too crass a colossus to justify. But it could also generate $200 million, and the money could benefit those student-athletes who already compete for a de facto football championship.
"If you didn't already have a basketball tournament, and somebody said, 'Let's bring all the teams in for three weekends during March—we can get a billion dollars from TV,' it would not be approved today," says Hancock. "Because of the bigness, because of the pressures, it would not be approved. But thankfully we have it."
And you cannot put the Creme Dentrifice Tooth Powder Elixir Balm back in the tube. No one knows that better than the Kansas Citians charged with keeping the NCAA in its current location: Even they cannot muster much public outrage over a possible move. "A certain part of the community feels this is Art Modell under the guise of amateur athletics," says Joe McGuff, a member of the executive committee of the Greater Kansas City Sports Commission and Foundation, which has watched an NBA franchise, the Big Eight Conference headquarters and even the annual (and gargantuan) Future Farmers Association of America rodeo leave town in little more than a decade. "But I feel this is just the way it is. Everything in college athletics changed with the advent of television. TV turned big-time basketball and football into major businesses. And this kind of thing is just a part of big business."
In other words, if and when the Association abandons the Land of Oz, it will only be acknowledging what has been fact for years: We're not in Kansas anymore.