Fury as US sport fails to toe line

July 6, 2001

Boston University heads need to regain control over campus athletics, a commission has urged.

The Knight Foundation Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics issued its call exactly ten years after a similar appeal following scandals about payoffs and rules violations.

The commission's report says the situation has since worsened. It highlights "a cascade of scandalous acts that, against a backdrop of institutional complicity and capitulation, threatens the health of American higher education".

It says: "We find that the problems of big-time college sports have grown... Academic transgressions, a financial arms race, and commercialisation are all evidence of the widening chasm between higher education's ideals and big-time college sports."

University athletics can generate billions of dollars in sponsorship deals. But there is a low rate of graduation among athletes.

Several presidents plan to meet to consider the report, which recommends treating athletes more like other students, reducing the length of sports seasons and the number of athletic scholarships, and imposing minimum graduation rates.

It says that teams should be required to graduate at least half their athletes to be eligible for conference and national championships. Barely half of all schools meet that standard.

"The good name of the nation's academic enterprise is even more threatened today than it was when the Knight Commission published its first report," the report says.

At that time, 54 per cent of the 106 Division I-A institutions - those that play at the highest level - had been censured, sanctioned or put on probation for violations of athletic conference rules. In the ten years since, 52 per cent of that group were similarly penalised.

"More than half the institutions competing at the top levels continue to break the rules," the report says.

In some cases, coaches, who are paid far more than presidents, have arranged for university employees to write papers and take tests for athletes.

Alumni have been known to offer cash or sports cars to recruit athletic prospects to their schools.

There have been some signs of change. The regents of the University of Nebraska have adopted a resolution urging national limits on spending for athletics programmes.

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