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August 29, 2011
A booster's corruption of the Hurricanes prompts a writer to rethink the letter he addressed to Miami's president in 1995. His recommendation is the same, but now there's a chance for real change
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August 29, 2011

16 Years Later, It's Time To Get Real

A booster's corruption of the Hurricanes prompts a writer to rethink the letter he addressed to Miami's president in 1995. His recommendation is the same, but now there's a chance for real change

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Fight for fiscal sanity.

We're entering what's sure to be a long era of austerity. As public universities go broke, taxpayers will rightly demand to know why college coaches are paid as much as their pro counterparts, when the rare profitable college team makes a tenth of what an NFL franchise does. Coaches, not to mention athletic directors and even conference commissioners, are pulling down absurdly escalating amounts of money, while the players who help them reap the windfall of marketing and broadcast cash get nothing. Meanwhile your own football program is in the red, as are those of all but 14 of the top 120 FBS schools. In the name of credibility, fairness and common sense, you need to lead the calls for salaries to be reined in. No one benefiting from the status quo wants to change it—but if you make progress on this front, we'll know your crusade has traction.

Challenge the bowls.

The bowl system, in which top-tier officials collect the same obscene amounts as coaches and ADs, must be reformed. It's both a symptom and cause of the prevailing mess. The Fiesta Bowl's recently deposed CEO, John Junker, had Nevin Shapiro's taste for strip clubs and—if you simply substitute Junker's golfing trips and illegal political campaign contributions for Shapiro's magnums of champagne and bordello cruises—paid-for loyalty. He was finally brought to heel last March, despite an initial "internal investigation" by the Fiesta Bowl's board of directors that had all the credibility and effectiveness of your own fruitless compliance efforts. Bowl games have traditionally received public subsidies and enjoy nonprofit status, even though, with a few exceptions such as the Rose Bowl, their takes go more to half-million-dollar salaries than to charity. If "institutional control" really is an NCAA value, make it clear to the organization that it cannot subcontract the championship in your highest-profile sport to a cartel.

Bring the hammer down.

Competitive advantages and spoils (scholarships, bowl appearances, TV revenue, even the very privilege of fielding a team) should be tied more directly to compliance. The NCAA needs to signal its seriousness by expanding its enforcement budget rather than essentially freezing it, as it did two decades ago. Existing sanctions clearly aren't serving as a deterrent. In 2008 the Committee on Infractions begged its NCAA overlords to toughen penalties for rule breakers, yet more than three years later nothing has been done. Stay on them to make sure it gets done.

Deliver change in the system and someday you could revive Hurricanes football in that reformed environment, where your team would have a fighting chance to represent your campus and city as they deserve. As I wrote to President Foote 16 years ago, "If you do it right, when the time comes to bring back football at 'this generation's Stanford,' your students and alumni will walk tall again."

The Chinese ideogram for crisis, wei ji, features two characters, one meaning danger and the other, opportunity. Remember what you said after the Knight Commission released its 1991 report on recruiting scandals, graduation rates and athletic department funding? "Don't blame the coaches, athletic directors or student-athletes. Blame it on us. It's our responsibility."

More than that, it's your opportunity. Seize it.


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