While intercollegiate athletics is far from suffering an identity crisis, it is suffering from an integrity crisis, said NCAA Executive Director Dick Schultz.
Ironically, Schultz's proclaimed "integrity crisis" comes at a time when the NCAA is enjoying immense popularity. "Yet the public image of intercollegiate athletics is deteriorating. The unfortunate thing is that a few schools, a few coaches and a few athletes are causing that deterioration.Schultz spoke Wednesday night at the annual BYU Cougar Club banquet. Also addressing the group was BYU President Jeffrey R. Holland, who read a memorandum decrying declining sportsmanship that he sent last month to the Western Athletic Conference President's Council and WAC Commissioner Joe Kearney.
While some violating institutions require discipline and probation, subsequent media attention on such problems has "amplified and blown out of proporation," NCAA athletics as a whole, Schultz said.
For example, the headline-grabbing ethical problems of some 30-plus athletes have blemished the 270,000 total athletes, he said, adding that fewer than two dozen of the 800 NCAA schools are on probation.
To make each colleges accountable, Schultz is proposing that the NCAA Council and its Presidents Commission sponsor a national accrediting program that would audit institutions on rules violations, graduation rates, admissions policies, academic requirements, and conduct both on and off the field.
In reading his three-page letter dated March 24, President Holland decribed intercollegiate athletics as being "on the brink of self-destruction," adding that the "situation is sometimes deplorable, (but) I do not believe it is hopeless."
He called for a higher standard of conduct and responsibility among players, coaches, fans and institutional officials. He also decried degrading verbal battles on the playing fields and in the stands, when race, ethnic background and religion become the tools of intimidation.
"We need to get back to the days when superior athletic performance was applauded by winners and losers alike, when crowds were strong in supporting their own teams rather than boorishly intimidating opposing teams, when sports spawned moral heroes and character was in vogue, when hard-fought battles engendered mutual respect among players, when playing fields . . . were not cluttered with debris thrown by antagonists, and when fans could take family and friends to games and not be embarrassed by vulgar signs and obscene slogans."
President Holland admitted that while BYU has not always lived up to its own standards, the university intends to run an exemplary program. He recently requested the athletic department to a review of and recommitment to such standards, calling for strict suspensions or explusions for violating student athletes and ejections of violating fans.