Every item on the legislative slate was voted in by a landslide at the special convention of the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. here Friday morning.
Even the items involving hard-hitting measures that will probably result in drastic changes slid through with hardly a squabble as the delegates voted for integrity.
Precious few wanted to be counted voting against integrity, which was the theme of this convention called by the recently formed Presidents’ Commission.
As President L. Donald Shields of SMU put it, there was an evangelistic attitude.
The delegates were not shouting, “Amen!” Instead, they were passing computer cards toward the aisle. But the effect was the same, since every proposal on the original agenda passed, even the controversial Proposal 3, by an average vote of about 98%.
For the first time, the NCAA used a computerized system that listed, by name, the institutions voting for and against issues. Also for the first time, the presidents and chancellors took a highly active part in the convention.
The result? Shields outdid himself with this assessment: “It was a remarkable mass behavioral phenomenon in which dissent has been implied to be dishonorable.”
SMU, however, had dared to dissent, even voting against the sections of Proposal 3 that established tougher penalties for all violations and devastating penalties for repeat violators, including suspending a team’s schedule for up to two years, suspending a coach and staff for the same time and eliminating all initial scholarships and recruiting for two years.
Texas, also a member of the Southwest Conference, was the other major dissenter, voting no on almost every major proposal.
Donna Lopriano, the women’s athletic director at Texas, proposed an amendment to Proposal 3 that would have ensured an institution due process when it was under investigation. It would have provided for the school to be informed promptly of any investigation and for the institution to have had copies of all documents of inquiry or allegations.
By the only close vote of the day, 205-202, the convention voted not to include that amendment, but rather to effectively table it by referring it to the Presidents’ Commission.
Lopriano said after the meeting that Texas was in favor of the stronger legislation, but not without the safeguards of due process. “I’d like to think this is a momentary oversight and that (the Commission) will come back with due process legislation,” she said.
When it was suggested to her that it might be assumed that Texas was taking its stands because there might be an investigation pending, she said: “Not that I know of . . . but it’s that kind of thinking that makes it difficult to stand up at a time like this. It is so great to be at a university that isn’t afraid to stand up for what it believes in.”
The other last-second amendment to Proposal 3, the one that UCLA Chancellor Charles Young presented on Thursday and caused such a stir, was dropped.
Young withdrew the amendment after John Davis, president of Oregon State and president of the NCAA, read a new interpretation of the rule that the NCAA Council had arrived at after the round-table discussion on Thursday afternoon. Davis explained that although past violations would still count when considering repeat violations, that could only happen when considering a second violation that occurs after Sept. 1.
The distinction is between an investigation that occurs after Sept. 1 or a violation that occurs after Sept. 1. With the new interpretation, notice is served that any new indiscretion will lead to the severe penalties. No school can now be penalized under new legislation that was not in force when the violations occurred.
Young said: “The amendment was proposed to overcome what many of us thought was an unwise and improper interpretation. I believe the most onerous aspects have now been eliminated.”
Otherwise, it was smooth sailing even for the tough Proposal 3. Section A, stating that coaches and staff members will be held accountable for violations, passed by a vote of 424-4, and Section B, dealing with enforcement procedures, passed, 432-3. Section C, concerning notification of allegations, was voted upon by division and passed overwhelming in all three divisions.
The vote on the real guts of Proposal 3, Sections D, E, F, and G, outlining the stricter penalties for all violations and the “death penalties” for repeat violators, passed, 427-6.
In his introductory remarks, Indiana University President John Ryan, chairman of the Presidents’ Commission that called for this convention, noted that presidents are “heartsick” about the current state of intercollegiate athletics. He pointed out that the proposals on the agenda were designed to leave no question of institutional control of athletic departments, and to eliminate corruption.
“I implore you, if you accept the proposals, do not nit-pick them to shreds,” he said. “It is time to take these important steps and not be bogged down as we do so.”
It was amen to that, too.
The first two proposals passed quickly, with no debate. No. 1, which requires schools to conduct a self-study of its athletic department at least once every five years, passed by a roll-call vote of 418-6, and No. 2, which requires a school to file annual reports on the entrance requirements of incoming student-athletes, academic progress of athletes and rates of graduation for athletes, passed--by a vote of Division I schools only--283-4.
Proposal No. 4, stating that a coach under restrictions because of violations at one school would have those restrictions apply at another school, passed, in one section, by all three divisions and in the second section by a vote of 431-1-1.
Proposal No. 5, which stipulates that student-athletes be held accountable when involved in violations, passed, 436-0.
The rest of the proposals also received little opposition, and although nobody was surprised by their passing, no one could have predicted the “mass behavior” Shields referred to.
Young said: “I thought it would be overwhelming, but I was surprised at the unanimity. I think people realized that, essentially, the issues had been determined before we arrived here.”
The unprecedented united front made the strong message of the convention even stronger. Walter Byers, executive director of the NCAA, said: “The message is clear that the leadership of higher education will not tolerate the . . . element that brings disgrace to all higher education. The question is whether the hard-core minority of coaches, athletic directors and enslaved alumni is going to get the message. There is a group of transgressors who think they are immune to the rules.”
But the penalties, now, make it dangerous to break those rules.
Ted Foote, president of the University of Miami, explained the unanimity of the voting this way: “It simply is time to get the system under control, and fast. There was widespread dissatisfaction and embarrassment with the excesses and the scandals.
“The problems are not going to disappear today, but I think we’ve taken some steps on a long journey.”
It is possible that some of the steps taken are much too idealistic, and, even though the mood was not right for challenging the practicality, some may have to be adjusted.
George King, athletic director at Purdue, said: “It’s like anything else. You start with the idealistic position and then you refine it, refine it and refine it. But you have to start with the ideal.”
ON NCAA VOTING
JOE PATERNO, Penn State
‘It’s about time. The presidents . . . made up their minds to step in and correct some of the things that are most unpopular to an academic institution.’
MACK BROWN, Tulane
Ath. Director, Football Coach
'. . . a step forward in cleaning up recruiting. A coach carrying infractions to another school . . . will keep him from running away from a problem.’
JACKIE SHERRILL, Texas A&M;
Ath. Director, Football Coach
'(Coaches) are going to have to educate prospective student-athletes. They’re going to have to know much more about what they can and can’t do.’