No, to Presidential Commission- Yes, to new NCAA structure

One of the Women’s Sports Foundation’s favorite and often cited economists, Andrew Zimbalist of Smith College, has called for a Presidential Commission to address the recent crisis in NCAA Division I sports triggered by the paying players issue.

In his article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, professor Zimbalist doesn’t offer any ideas for an optimal outcome for the problem other than more government. Asking the federal government to create regulations to control costs is like asking the Ultimate Fighting Championship to offer solutions to control violence in sports.

Then why would he propose a Presidential Commission? In one word, it’s about control. A Presidential Commission on college athletics would be conducted through the US Department of Education. Anyone who is experienced in DC politics knows that the “inside the Beltway” groups would hold outsized influence in every step; from staffing the commission, controlling selection of testimony, and creating final recommendations.

In this case, one organization with critical influence in the Obama Administration’s Department of Education would be the National Women’s Law Center, a key ally of the Women’s Sports Foundation. With the NWLC on the inside of the process, there’s little doubt that their political agenda would drive the commission. This is the same agenda that twisted Title IX enforcement into the unreasonable gender quota regime we have today. A Presidential Commission is not the solution to the problem. It would only grant power to the same sort of government functionaries who have helped make such a mess of Title IX compliance.

So what’s the alternative? Instead of another commission, it’s time for college administrators to acknowledge that when they start paying football and basketball players ‘stipends’ in response to the O’Bannon decision they will create a semi-professional status for these athletes.

The football programs in the Big Five conferences clearly operate under a different set of priorities than the rest of the schools in the NCAA. Maybe now is the time for those revenue focused programs to go their own way in pursuit of profits. Meanwhile, the vast majority of schools, the institutions that believe in the educational value of intercollegiate athletics, can follow a separate path free of the financial and legal pressures that will be a consequence of semi professional college sports.

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