Wiedmer: Emmert takes his proposals to NCAA convention

Wiedmer: Emmert takes his proposals to NCAA convention

January 11th, 2012 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - Columns

In this file photo, Mark A. Emmert speaks during a news conference after being announced as the president elect of the NCAA in Indianapolis in April 2010.

In this file photo, Mark A. Emmert speaks...

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

When Alabama thoroughly dominated LSU in Monday night's BCS title game, it momentarily silenced many of the critics who questioned whether the Crimson Tide were even worthy of facing the Tigers for a second time this season.

Say what you want to of Oklahoma State -- and it's hard to imagine the Cowboys wouldn't have been more of a challenge for Bama's defense than LSU was -- the flip side is that the Cowboys' defense resembles the Tigers' only in the number of players who can be on the field at one time.

So no matter how many Okie State might have scored, the Tide would have rolled. Case closed. At least for this year.

But that doesn't mean the future of the BCS won't be high on NCAA president Mark Emmert's priority list when the NCAA convention gets under way today in Indianapolis.

Said Emmert a few days ago in an interview with the Huffington Post website: "I could easily see a movement toward the Plus-One that everyone is talking about. This year it would have produced something like No. 1 LSU playing No. 4 Stanford, and No. 2 [Alabama] playing No. 3 (Oklahoma State], and the winners playing in a championship.

"There would still be a big debate: 'Well, did No. 5 get cheated?' But at least you'd have something that looked like a Final Four model. But there will always be debate about it."

Yet big as that debate figures to be, it might well be dwarfed by opposing viewpoints concerning Emmert's desire to pay student-athletes $2,000 a year for what he describes as "cost of attendance."

Even though 161 of 355 Division I member schools have signed a petition to override the new rule -- including the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga -- Emmert can restore the rule if he can convince 222 presidents to vote it back in.

Also at the top of his "To Ratify" list is his goal to turn one-year athletic scholarships (most are automatically renewed) into iron-clad four-year agreements.

"They make great sense," Emmert told the Associated Press on Tuesday. "They were adopted in a very clear effort to support our students, and I think, in the end, they will do that. Whenever you move as big and as quickly as we did, you have people who want to make changes. But you don't go back on the principle."

Emmert's problems are almost endless in nature. From whether to penalize Penn State for its role in the Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse scandal, to modifying the BCS, to how to pay all athletes -- even if Emmert insists on calling them stipends -- rather than just football and men's basketball players, the NCAA seems to be at an uncertain crossroads in almost every facet.

Then there's college athletics' overall image, which has been shredded these past 12 months by the Penn State and Syracuse messes as well as the ordinary cheating scandals at Tennessee, Ohio State and Miami, to name but three.

"We're in a curious moment," Emmert said, "where people are cynical about most everything institutional ... and they're cynical about athletics. So there's a very special need for us to go above and beyond expectations, and to demonstrate that these games are very special and different from professional athletics."

Making scholarships four-year propositions accomplishes that. Stiffer penalties for more egregious rules violations accomplishes that. But allowing conferences to vote on whether they'll provide a stipend only further widens the gaps between the haves (BCS conferences) and have-nots (everybody else) at the Division I level.

Beyond that, however much Emmert wants the stipend, the reality is that schools like UTC could never pay it, whether the amount was $2,000, $200 or $20.

Moreover, if Emmert really is concerned about his student-athletes' futures, he'll force coaches to give them time to work real jobs in the summers, which would not only allow them to make the $2,000 he thinks they need but also to see how the real world works.

"There are some very legitimate concerns," Emmert told the AP concerning the overall membership's opinion of his preferred changes.

But at least for this year, that BCS thing sort of, kind of worked out the way it should.