INDIANAPOLIS — Arne Duncan credits the NCAA for picking up the pace to fix college sports. He just believes more needs to be done in 2012 -- perhaps even more quickly.
The U.S. education secretary called on Bowl Championship Series schools and conferences to put some of their revenue into an education fund and openly backed the two hot-button issues at this week's annual NCAA convention: a $2,000 allowance toward the full cost of attendance and multi-year scholarships.
"A couple of these things are steps in the right direction, and I think the NCAA has moved faster than people expected," Duncan said Wednesday. "I think the problems are very real, and I think the cost of inaction is very high."
NCAA President Mark Emmert started the latest push by bringing roughly 50 university leaders to Indy for a presidential retreat in August. Since then, a number of legislative changes have been approved including tougher academic standards for athletes, making graduation rates commensurate with postseason eligibility, offering additional money to cover living expenses, and scholarships that cannot be taken away because of poor performances on the playing field.
More changes are on the way.
The Division I Board of Directors will get updates from subcommittees that have been asked to shrink the massive 400-plus page rulebook, change the penalty structure for rule- breakers and to speed up infractions cases.
Duncan offered another proposal.
"The BCS conferences should set aside some of that bowl money for a student-enhancement fund and there are proposals out there that they can look at," Duncan said.
When asked later about how much of those millions of dollars are currently going to academic support, Duncan responded: "Zero and I'm 100 percent sure on that. It's just misplaced priorities."
While most schools have strongly agreed with academic reforms already approved, there has been a backlash in regards to the two other rules changes approved in October, the $2,000 stipend and the multi-year scholarships. The board will discuss its options on those override petitions at Saturday's meeting.
Duncan offered public support for both and even urged college presidents and chancellors not to let such arguments bog things down.
"The narrative for 2012 in college sports is all about the deal, it's all about the brand. It's about the big-time college football programs saying 'Show me the money,'" Duncan told an audience of about of 500 NCAA delegates during the keynote luncheon. "Too often, large, successful programs seem to exist in an insular world, a world of their own. Their football and basketball players, sometimes even their coaches, are given license to behave in ways that would be unacceptable elsewhere in higher education or in society at large. Nothing, I mean nothing, does more to erode public faith in intercollegiate sports than the appearance of a double standard."
Cleaning things up, Duncan explained repeatedly, will be difficult.
Some even call it impossible.
David Ridpath, past president of The Drake Group, an NCAA watchdog, said he believes the organization has already lost control of the big-dollar market in college football and will soon have to cope with major disagreements between the largest schools and smaller ones.
"I think we're at a point where competitive equity needs to be redefined," said Ridpath, a professor at Ohio University. "Where you do see the inequity is in the Big Ten Networks and the Longhorn Networks and the money they generate, and I can see a day when the haves split away from the have-nots and form their own group."
Last year was fraught with scandals, ending with the shocking accusations of child sex-abuse by former assistant coaches at Penn State and Syracuse.
The education department is investigating whether Penn State violated federal law by failing to report the alleged sexual assaults. The NCAA also has begun an inquiry to see if any of its rules, including the dreaded lack of institutional control charge, also were violated.
Duncan said the department is not investigating Syracuse, and that he could not update where the investigation stood at Penn State.
"There are a couple of different situations we're looking into in regards to the Clery Act," Duncan said. "The end results won't be pretty, but they will be true."
Duncan praised Emmert for his leadership, his promise of reform and the energy he has brought to the NCAA's headquarters..
"I think there's been a greater sense of urgency and a greater sense of not committees and conversation dialogue that's unending, but a greater move toward action recently that is very, very encouraging," he said.