Pivotal NCAA Convention Starts Today


The labyrinthian NCAA is expected to adopt sweeping changes that could alter college athletics as the 90th annual legislative convention begins today with more than 2,600 delegates representing 902 schools.

The buzzword for this year’s event here is restructuring, which would overhaul the rule-making process of the heavily bureaucratized organization and give college presidents and chief executive officers more control.

“This may be the most significant legislation that we’ve had in the history of the association,” said Cedric Dempsey, NCAA executive director.


Of the 133 proposals to be considered over the next three days, Proposition 7 has become the biggest issue because it gives more autonomy to the major athletic powers.

The proposal would end a one-school, one-vote system in which universities without scholarship athletics have equal say in the legislative process. In the past, smaller schools have kept the brakes on wanton commercialism of college sports.

Perhaps the clearest example of how voting patterns could change involved a feasibility study for a Division I-A football playoff. Members of the influential Presidents Commission dropped the study last year after representatives of Divisions II and III voted against continuing it.

That rankled some Division I administrators, who long complained that their schools were being held hostage by the ideals of smaller institutions that do not share their priorities. They want to chart their own course into the next century and will have the power to do so if Proposition 7 passes during Monday’s scheduled vote.

The proposal calls for the NCAA to be governed by an executive committee of 16 presidents, eight from the nation’s major football schools. Each division would have a controlling body made up of college presidents and a management council of athletic administrators. For once, the chain of power would be defined.

“If restructuring doesn’t go through, it would mean another organization might take the place of the NCAA,” said Karl Benson, Western Athletic Assn. commissioner.


Small schools view such talk as veiled threats but as college football is driven more and more by economics, there seems to be a need for direct governing.

The organization currently is managed by the NCAA Council, Executive Committee and Presidents Commission, which has emerged as a powerful force in the last 10 years.

“When the Presidents Commission was formed, we layered a new bureaucracy on bureaucracy,” said Dempsey, formerly athletic director at Arizona. “The confusion needs to be clarified.”

Other issues expected to be addressed:

--A proposal to prohibit athletic department personnel from setting up meetings between players and agents. “From 1988 to ’94 we had nine incidents of illegal agent involvement,” Dempsey said. “This year alone we had 15. In the last few months we have received more calls from athletic directors who are totally frustrated.”

--Proposals to thwart abuses involving summer-school classes at community colleges. Administrators want to stop transfers from becoming eligible through a full load of summer courses.

--A proposal to prohibit two-year college transfers from using correspondence course credits to meet academic requirements to transfer to four-year schools. In the last three years, correspondence courses from a Florida bible school were used for scores of basketball players attending 40 schools, an NCAA investigation uncovered.


--Two proposals would allow Division I athletes to work in the off-season during the school year. One of the proposals would permit up to $1,500 in income. Athletes currently are allowed to work only during summer and Christmas and spring breaks.

--A proposal would ban athletes from any gambling activities related to professional sports. Currently, athletes are prohibited only from gambling on college events.