After Penn State, will boards be able to exercise legal oversight over campus athletics? Boards should be responsible for the hundreds of millions of dollars spent by NCAA institutions on coliseums, coaches, scholarships and more. If we want institutional accountability, we must create a framework that empowers boards—and the NCAA does the contrary. NCAA rules give lip service to trustees but effectively cede full control over athletic programs to administrators. Ed Ray, NCAA executive committee chair, said the message is that “presidents and the chancellors are in charge.” The Penn State board relied on Graham Spanier, the president, at Penn State. Is that what we want?
The NCAA is part of the problem, not the solution. Its rules encourage boards to be deferential to presidents when they should be proactive and attentive. If Penn State taught us anything, it’s the urgent need for trustees to provide a check and balance to the boundless ambition of coaches, athletic directors and presidents. The NCAA would have done much more for students and the future of athletic integrity if it had just let trustees do their job. Higher ed isn’t about sports, it’s about education—but that’s regrettably not a premise that will sustain the salaries and bureaucracy of the NCAA.