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Cleaning Up College Sports

The football program of Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer epitomized the win-at-any-cost attitude that led to many of the scandals that taint intercollegiate athletics. His resignation was welcome and he will not be missed.

But it is only fair to the many coaches and college administrators who are left and who are trying to run clean athletic programs to call attention at the same time to efforts at reform. California, and the West in general, are fortunate to have so many campuses where faculties have played crucial roles in getting college athletics back into perspective. The record of the Pacific 10 Conference is not perfect, but its schools have shown admirable leadership on the issue. So have their sister institutions in the Big 10 Conference, Midwestern universities whose football champion plays the Pacific 10 champion in the Rose Bowl each year.

For the record:

12:00 AM, Jul. 06, 1989 For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday July 6, 1989 Home Edition Metro Part 2 Page 6 Column 5 Letters Desk 1 inches; 13 words Type of Material: Correction
The name of the new Big 10 commissioner was misspelled in an editorial July 1. He is Jim Delany.

Next week the Big 10 will install as its new commissioner Jim Delaney, former commissioner of the Ohio Valley Conference. In a recent interview with USA Today, Delaney outlined several refreshing ideas that are worth considering as the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. seeks ways to eliminate some of the abuses in college sports, particularly the money-making sports, football and basketball.

Delaney proposes using the television revenues generated by those sports to create trusts funds that schools could use to help student-athletes financially. Many of the recent college scandals stemmed from efforts by overzealous boosters or coaches to give students money and gifts for their efforts on the field. Delaney would use the trust fund to loan student-athletes who need money up to $500 a year, with the loan forgiven if the student graduated within five years. In effect, Delaney is acknowledging the fact that many modern student-athletes are semiprofessionals. Since their efforts earn money for their schools, they are entitled to share in the financial

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benefits.

The new Big 10 commissioner also outlined a plan for regulating freshman eligibility--the unfortunate practice in which first-year students play varsity athletics before they have had a chance to adjust to work in college classrooms. Delaney would eliminate first-year play, as we have long urged. But he would offer student-athletes incentives that would allow them to play four seasons rather than just three. They could do so if they made normal academic progress in their first three years and were close to graduation prior to their fourth season of competition.

Obviously Delaney’proposals must be evaluated by the NCAA before being adapted. But it is encouraging, nonetheless, to see fresh ideas injected into the debate over college sports. Not everyone is throwing up his hands and walking away in frustration, as Switzer did, leaving a program in shambles.


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