Bill Friday Surveys the State of College Sports

Recently, the Independent Weekly (Raleigh-Durham, NC) interviewed William Friday, the founding co-chairman of the Knight Commission and president emeritus of the University of North Carolina System.  Friday was asked for his perspective on the state of college sports today.  A portion of the interview follows:

INDEPENDENT WEEKLY: You helped found the Knight Commission in 1989 in the wake of the SMU-Pony Express scandal. With investigations ongoing at Miami, Ohio State and UNC, among others, is college athletics better or worse off now or then? Who is at fault?

BILL FRIDAY: We’re a lot worse off, no question about that. Three things came out of that process in the first two years: One was to reassert presidential authority. The second one was to set up processes to guarantee academic integrity, and third to do the same thing with fiscal integrity. Then there was a fourth recommendation, which said that every five years a team would go into the institutions and see how well one, two and three were being performed. This got along very well, and we began to enact in the NCAA quite a few changes, minor most of them, but the process was beginning.

Then came television money, and what you’ve witnessed in the last decade has been the enormous power of millions of dollars to do what you have seen done, which was to I think create a situation that’s probably the worst one that college sports has ever been involved in.

This is the sad part about it. Everybody acknowledges that things aren’t the way they should be, that we are in a dangerous situation, but nobody is stepping forward now to say that here’s what we need to do … You’ve got to start somewhere. For example, I would do what Dean Smith long ago advocated, and it’s been proven I think in recent episodes here. I would reinstall the freshman eligibility rule.

The second thing would be, I would abolish football in midweek at colleges. It’s too disruptive. Third, I would take a good hard look at the length of the season. It begins early and runs well after Christmas now and bowl games. Fourthly, I would make sure that the 50 percent rule was in place in every conference and that this was publicly accounted for.

Fifthly, and this I think is going to happen, this has gotten to be such a big business involving billions of dollars, not millions, billions, and these operations do not have any direct relationship at all to the basis of tax exemption for the university. So sooner or later we’re going to have to face the question of taxation, and this can mean either federal taxation or state taxation, but it’s a question that isn’t going to go away.

For the complete interview, link here.