INDIANAPOLIS — The NCAA outlined plans Friday to penalize repeat rule-breakers with tougher sanctions, save money by cutting football and women’s basketball scholarships and trim its massive 400-page rulebook.
All of this, NCAA officials hope, can be finished by August.
“We are dealing with some very real circumstances and business as usual isn’t working,” said Ed Ray, the Oregon State president and chairman of the NCAA executive committee. “This is a supernormal process to get us from business as usual to being good stewards of intercollegiate athletics so that we take back the collegiate model from the people who are making the big bucks and who, frankly, don’t give a damn about the integrity of the game or the welfare of the college student.”
Julie Roe Lach, the NCAA’s vice president for enforcement, provided a preview into a new enforcement structure.
Infractions categories would be renamed egregious, serious, solid secondary and technical. If the rulebook is edited properly, something that NCAA leaders say remains on track, Lach believes technical violations could be scrapped or dealt with at the conference level.
Schools and coaches could also face more serious charges and penalties for aggravating circumstances such as repeat offenses or prior knowledge of the infraction. But they could be helped by mitigating circumstances such as institutional control, self-discovery and self-reporting.
Egregious violations could result in more postseason bans, too, something that has been used sparingly over the past decade though Lach said a recent survey of member schools rated that as the No. 1 deterrent to rule-breaking.
“I think giving schools credit for what is their obligation is just wrong-headed,” said Jo Potuto, a constitutional law professor at Nebraska and former head of the infractions committee.
Potuto, however, agrees with some of the other changes.
The infractions committee could go from 10 members to 18 or more, allowing six or seven-person panels to meet more regularly in an effort to speed up deliberations. Presidents, athletic directors and coaches all could become part of the panels, providing more context. Lach is also exploring the possibility of using video conferences and summary agreements.
The ultimate goal is to create a fair, faster process with more predictable sanctions.
“The momentum was already building, I think, before some of the events of 2011,” Lach said, referring to a scandal-plagued year. “But 2011 was more of a catalyst if we needed more momentum.”
While the expedited process has given some of this week’s 3,500 delegates reason for pause, the specifics are generating an uproar.
Two significant rules changes passed by the Division I Board of Directors in October — a $2,000 athlete stipend and requiring multiyear scholarships rather than annual renewals — are already facing override hearings. President Mark Emmert said he wants to see only slight modifications to the stipend before sending it back out for a 60-day comment period.
Still, in an Indianapolis hotel ballroom packed with roughly 400 Division I delegates, Ray and Emmert got to see and hear opponents urging them to slow down.
“I know on our campus we support this (stipend), but we still have significant work to do with Title IX and with our budgets,” said California athletic director Sandy Barbour. “I sincerely believe we need more time to get it right.”
Emmert insists the NCAA can’t afford to go slow in a college environment tainted by scandals. From the shocking child sex-abuse allegations at Penn State and Syracuse to the stunning admissions that coaches at Tennessee and Ohio State didn’t tell administrators or investigators of potential problems in their programs, it was a year filled with frustration.
If all of the visions are approved by August, college sports could soon have vastly different look.
Besides the stipend and scholarships, an NCAA working group is proposing several cost-cutting measures.
They include reducing non-coaching staffs in football to 12 and in basketball to six starting in 2013-14, the elimination of foreign tours starting this summer and scholarship reductions in football and women’s basketball. Football Bowl Subdivision schools would lose five scholarships, going from 85 to 80. Football Championship Subdivision schools would see the maximum limit decrease from 63 to 60.
In women’s basketball, each Division I school would lose two scholarships, going from 15 to 13, matching the men’s limit.
The subcommittee, chaired by Georgia president Michael Adams, also wants to conduct a study into shorter playing seasons.
Board members will hear formal proposals Saturday and could then vote on them.
Not surprisingly, there were concerns. Women’s Basketball Coaches Association CEO Beth Bass argued against the scholarship cuts. National Association of Basketball Coaches executive director Jim Haney took issue with the proposed elimination of foreign tours. Others contended the details were just too obtrusive.
“This is part of the old NCAA, trying to regulate details and trying to regulate competitive equity,” Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman said. “It cannot be done.”
One thing is certain: The NCAA isn’t going to spend years debating these changes. Emmert wants them now and he’s pushing everyone to move swiftly to finish the job.
“We’re trying to find solutions that support our student-athletes and that do it in a way that works in the 21st century,” Emmert said. “We have been moving fast, and I’m very supportive of that, and I’m pushing it. We want to move forward.”