Swayed by the power of their presidents, delegates to the 85th annual NCAA convention overwhelmingly approved all of the reform items they dealt with Tuesday on the first day of voting, including legislation that will limit coaching staffs in all Division I sports.
If Tuesday’s voting is any indication, the convention could be a walkover for the NCAA Presidents Commission, which sponsored or endorsed a series of proposals designed to cut costs, help athletes become more comfortable as students and tighten requirements for membership in the NCAA’s upper echelon, Division I.
Every proposal in those areas passed easily and largely unamended.
Said John Mackovic, Illinois football coach and athletic director, as he spoke on the convention floor against football coaching staff reductions: “I feel like I did last Tuesday when we were steamrolled by Clemson (in the Hall of Fame Bowl).”
In addition to the coaching staff reductions, delegates voted to eliminate athletic dormitories at Division I schools by 1996, cut back on training table meals for athletes to one a day--also by ’96--and reduce the number of paid recruiting visits allowed in Division I-A and I-AA football and Division I basketball.
Also enacted was a measure requiring Division I coaches who recruit off campus to take a standardized test on NCAA recruiting rules.
“Right now, it looks pretty overwhelming,” Iowa President Hunter Rawlings said of the support for the Presidents Commission’s proposals. “Everybody is supporting the package in an almost humorous vein because they’re about to be run over by a truck.”
Nonetheless, there was an undercurrent of dissent and a hint that many of the adopted measures will be revised before they can be implemented.
“I think this convention is definitely a symbolic convention, and it is disturbing that there is a climate of stifling debate,” said Donna Lopiano, women’s athletic director at the University of Texas. “I wouldn’t mind if the presidents were really educated about athletics, but in general they’re not.”
Under legislation enacted Tuesday and scheduled to go into effect in August of 1992, Division I-A football coaching staffs will be reduced by three positions, and Division I basketball staffs will be reduced by one.
Coaching staffs in all other Division I sports, previously unrestricted, will also be subject to limitations.
In addition, the legislation eliminates the graduate assistant and volunteer assistant coaching categories and divides coaches into two categories--head coaches or assistants with no limitations on their earnings and “restricted earnings” coaches whose compensation cannot exceed $12,000 per academic year.
For instance, Division I baseball programs, which in some cases have coaching staffs with as many as five members, will be allowed a maximum of three coaches, two in the head coach-assistant coach category and one in the “restricted-earnings” category.
According to Ron Maestri, athletic director at the University of New Orleans and a former baseball coach at the school, coaching staff restrictions in baseball alone could eliminate 276 positions, most at the volunteer level.
Asked how the reductions will affect his own school, UCLA Chancellor Charles Young, a member of the Presidents Commission, said: “There certainly could be a substantial number of coaching positions cut. (But) we need to cut some.”
Still, there are those who believe the restrictions will cause safety problems for athletes, lead to other abuses and damage inroads made by women and minorities in college coaching.
Lopiano said, “Last hired will be the first fired and that will ruin the progress we have made with women and minorities.”
Said Rutgers Athletic Director Fred Gruninger, a member of the NCAA Council, as debate on the matter progressed: “I think it’s loud and clear to the council that we have some work to do.”
The legislation prohibiting athletic dormitories stipulates that schools cannot house athletes in dorms or wings of dorms in which 50% or more of the residents are athletes.
“We may have a wing or two (in dormitories designated for athletes), but that’s it,” Pac-10 Commissioner Tom Hansen said.
Some schools, however, will be required to make dramatic changes.
TCU, for instance, built a $7-million dormitory for its male and female athletes three years ago.
Division I members took one step toward restructuring in their division--a move that could force as many as 50 schools to improve their athletic programs or drop to a lower classification--by approving a measure requiring Division I schools to schedule only Division I opponents in the games they use to fulfill Division I membership. Still to be considered are more controversial proposals involving minimum numbers of sports and expenditures for athletic scholarships required for Division I membership.
As expected, Division I-A schools voted to eliminate all restrictions on negotiations between bowls and schools. The NCAA previously stipulated that such negotiations could not begin until the Saturday after the third Tuesday in November. But bowls and schools typically ignored the rule, and the NCAA did not enforce it.
In anticipation of Tuesday’s vote, the College Football Bowl Assn. announced Monday that it is implementing its own rule--no negotiations between bowls and schools until Nov. 17. Bowls found in violation of the rule will be fined $250,000 and publicly censured.