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Lucas at Large: Alvarez has eye on issues facing college athletics

GEN_110818_Alvarez_Barry.jpgUW athletic director Barry Alvarez had no trouble digesting what NCAA president Mark Emmert put on the table for consumption during a recent two-day retreat with school CEOs in Indianapolis.

Among other things, Emmert wants to streamline the balky NCAA rule book. Not only does he want to clear up the language, he wants to make sure the penalties match the crimes.

Following the summit, Emmert acknowledged, "The rules are in some cases too complex, unenforceable; in some ways convoluted and some ways irrelevant.''

Alvarez couldn't agree more.

"The NCAA rules have gotten way out of hand,'' Alvarez said Wednesday. "The rule book is way too complicated and you just don't have enough people to enforce the rules. It has to be cleaned up.

"Here's what you want to ask your coaches, 'What rules do you need? What rules don't you need?'  We have to eliminate a lot of the foolish violations and define what a secondary violation is.''

Emmert believes the NCAA is spending too much time trying to interpret and manage secondary violations; time and dollars that would be better spent focusing on the bigger rule violators.

"To a lot of coaches, a secondary violation is not a big deal; it's a slap on the wrist,'' Alvarez said. "If you really want to clear up secondary violations, take money out of their pay checks. Fine them.''

Addressing the current NCAA checks-and-balances, Alvarez said, "We need to move in a speedier fashion on how you punish someone and how long it takes. It's just too convoluted.''

Citing today's landscape in college athletics, Alvarez also suggested, "Instead of punishing schools, maybe we should start looking at punishing the individuals that are responsible.''

Could what is alleged to have transpired at the University of Miami, happen elsewhere?

"Sure it could,'' Alvarez said. "Potentially, it could happen anywhere.''

How difficult is it to identify and isolate a rogue booster?

"That's where you need everybody on the same page,'' Alvarez said. "Kids talk. Somebody will hear it; second-hand, or whatever, it will come back, whether it be to a strength coach or grad assistant.

"That's why you need somebody close to the players; somebody who knows what's going on. That's how you get your information. You have to have tentacles that go out in the community.''

Whenever there's such media scrutiny of a program -- like there is currently with Miami -- does it sound the alarm and help other programs educate their people on the inherent dangers?

"It does,'' Alvarez said. "Ohio State would be a good example of that.

"Bret (Bielema) met right away with his players and talked to them about what you can and what you can't do if you're still on the team as far as selling bowl stuff and different memorabilia.''

Does he think former deputy A.D. Shawn Eichorst knew what he was getting himself into at Miami when he left Wisconsin to take over as the Hurricanes' athletic director?

"No, I don't think Shawn knew that they were going to be investigated,'' Alvarez said.

How will he respond to the situation?

"Shawn will attack it; he'll find out what the facts are,'' Alvarez said. "He's an analytical thinker and he's smart. He has poise under fire. I know that he won't rattle under pressure.''

Meanwhile, under the proposed NCAA makeover, there's pressure on Emmert to elevate the academic standards, including raising the Academic Progress Rate (APR) for postseason competition.

Schools that fall short of the APR would not be eligible. "We want to make a decision to set clear academic expectations for participation in any of our tournaments,'' Emmert said in Indianapolis.

Also being considering is raising the minimum grade-point average for incoming student-athletes from 2.0 to 2.5. Alvarez is definitely on board with the academic revisions.

"I'd go along with that 100 percent,'' he said.

But Alvarez is less certain about increasing the value of a scholarship to include "full cost of attendance.'' Emmert said most of the schools presidents are in favor of doing so.

"It sounds like everybody is leaning towards that and I have no problem with it,'' Alvarez said. "I'd like to help the student-athlete. However, we have to be consistent in what they can get.

"If it isn't consistent from school-to-school, it can become an unfair recruiting advantage.''

Like everyone else, Alvarez is waiting to see what happens, if anything with Texas A&M in light of the speculation that the Aggies are thinking about leaving the Big 12 and joining the SEC.

"It sure looks like A&M is not hiding what it's trying to do,'' Alvarez said. "That's a domino and if they did leave that would start the domino effect.''

What about future Big Ten expansion?

"I think we're fine with 12,'' Alvarez said.

If other conferences expand to 16 would that put the Big Ten at a disadvantage?

"No, I don't think so,'' Alvarez said.

What about the prospect of four "super'' conferences?

"I wouldn't be surprised,'' Alvarez said.

What about naming a college football commissioner to oversee the sport?

"I haven't heard that proposed, but it might be something to think about,'' Alvarez said.


Too many complex rules completely bog down a system, and so in this case I think that it's really smart to reevaluate what rules are truly needed, and which can be retired. The NCAA will only benefit from an in-depth analysis that identifies the true enforcement needs of the coaches.

I agree, rules for coaches should be tougher. Especially in light of all the things going on now involving college coaches. It sounds like not just the coaches but the administration needs to be held to higher standards and regulations as well.

In light of all the things taking place today with Penn State, it sounds like there should be more rules and regulation regarding coaches behavior and administration needs to be held to higher standards as well.