For decades, college athletics and the body that governs them, the NCAA, have been plagued by scandal, arbitrary rules and punishments, shady academics standards, and the tension-filled irony that student-athletes bring in millions of dollars while not being able to earn money themselves. Debate about reform has yielded little action. But earlier this week, NCAA President Mark Emmert summoned dozens of university presidents and officials to tackle the problem anew. The leaders emerged from their retreat Wednesday promising a number of sweeping changes, from streamlining the 439-page NCAA rulebook to toughening academic standards. Will change finally come to the NCAA?
Nope. We've heard this before: "No one wants to stomach what true reform would look like," says Jon Solomon in The Birmingham News. When the Supreme Court ended the NCAA monopoly in 1984, letting individual schools and conferences negotiate their own television contracts, college sports became primarily about commercial entertainment. Earning money overshadowed academic and ethical standards. And any regulation that tries to change that deeply ingrained dynamic is doomed to fail.
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Let's approach this with cautious optimism: Sure, the NCAA has been all talk and no action for years, says Dennis Dodd at CBS Sports. But maybe this time the NCAA really means it. The association's freshly installed president, Mark Emmert, is the "new sheriff in town," and he looks "ready to clean house." And really, even if NCAA leaders only "accomplish half of what they talked about Wednesday... then amateur athletics, not just college athletics, will have changed significantly."
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This time, it's for real: The NCAA Board of Directors could start voting on reforms as early as Thursday, not some "time down the road in the foggy future," says Pat Forde at ESPN. And there's a clear, specific agenda. The NCAA is making a commitment to doing right by athletes — with scholarships that truly cover the full cost of attending school — and promising to stop busting players for minor infractions like taking T-shirts from recruiters. "It won't be easy — but I like the NCAA's chances of enacting real reform."
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