The AJ-C‘s Tony Barnhart interviews NCAA head honcho Miles Brand on a variety of topics. Some of Brand’s responses aren’t as clear as one might hope, so I thought it would be useful to translate bureaucrat-speak into everyday English.
Q. What are chances that the field for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament will be expanded?
A. The last thing we want to do is significantly increase the size of the tournament to 96 or 128 teams. I think that would take a very good tournament and weaken it in the eyes of the public and the selectivity involved in it.
Having said that, there are probably things you could do moderately that may not have that effect and may even improve the tournament. For example, we have one play-in game on Tuesday. What if we had four play-in games? Last year we asked that question; [the men's basketball committee] said no. But it’s not off the table. I think in the future it may happen.
“Are you nuts? We just spent $50 million buying the NIT to put down an antitrust claim and you expect us to flush that money down the toilet by expanding March Madness? Get real, man.”
Q. What do you think of the NBA rule barring players from jumping directly from high school to the pros and the likelihood it will create “one-and-done” athletes who may or may not do the academic work before they leave college?
A. If there are individuals who are just looking at this as one and out, not taking care of business in the second semester, we have to deal with that. There may well be some of those.
There’s another, I would say, unintended consequence of the rule which actually has a beneficial effect. It sends a very clear message to young men, their families, third parties that if you think you can play in the NBA … you’re going to have to go to college for a year. That means you better prepare for the admission standards, and you have to be prepared to do the academic work.
“Hey, don’t blame us because the NBA is tired of paying millions to babysit kids. Besides, how tough is it to pass “History of Rock ‘n Roll”, anyway?”
Q. Do contracts like Nick Saban’s $4 million-a-year deal at Alabama make you concerned about the money being thrown around to coaches?
A. I thought that a million dollars was a lot. But when we moved away from that and moved, in one case, to a $4 million contract, I think we have to ask some very hard questions. Whether you can justify it in terms of rate of return, it raises the question of propriety for colleges and universities. Is this the appropriate thing to do within the context of college sports?
“There’s something very wrong with a system that pays college coaches four and five times worth more than it pays me. But until we can get Congress to grant us an antitrust exemption, we can’t fix coaches salaries. And yes, Mal Moore is an idiot.”
Q. Florida President Bernie Machen has said he wants a playoff in Division I-A football. Have you seen his plan? And what are your thoughts?
A. I haven’t seen it. I haven’t talked to President Machen about it. The reason we don’t have a Division I playoff right now is because the presidents don’t want a Division I playoff. If they change their minds, and President Machen may be successful in changing their minds, and the [conference] commissioners serve at the pleasure of the presidents, we may well move in that direction. At least right now I don’t see a groundswell [in favor of a playoff].
“Bernie has a plan? You know, it would be a lot easier if these presidents would just turn the football postseason over to the NCAA. We care about the student-athlete.”
Q. What is the level of concern about parents of players becoming agents while their child is still competing?
A. That is a complex set of issues, and I do have concerns about that. In basketball, especially, I have concerns about agents in one form or another directing their sons’ careers very early on as if they are only interested in professional athletics. I’m not sure it’s reached the level at this point of a dramatic problem, but it is something we’ll need to watch carefully.
“Great, just great – another group of folks seeking to enrich themselves. They should leave exploiting student-athletes to the experts.”
Q. Given the relatively small number of African-American head coaches in Division I football, does that sport need a version of the NFL’s “Rooney rule” requiring at least one minority coach be interviewed for each opening?
A. The reason the college football community doesn’t need the Rooney Rule is it has something in place frankly that’s more powerful … and that’s public exposure through the Black Coaches Association report card. In fact, 30 percent of the final candidates last year for [I-A] football jobs were African-American and were interviewed. So it’s not a question of getting people in the door to be interviewed. It’s a question of how does the process work so they can be hired.
“Hey, the NFL has its fig leaf, we have ours. The real problem is that most college athletic directors think the most enlightened move they can make is to hire a recycled hack like Dennis Erickson. We’re waiting for the day when Dennis Green is given the same consideration as Dennis Erickson.”
Feel free to review and discuss.