Are Big-Time College Athletics Out of Control?

This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, Feb. 23, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are serious, serious allegations. But at the same time, these allegations are intruding into the lives of these student athletes and the student population as a whole and the Boulder community.

And so what we're here to do is say hey, there are good people in this athletic department. There are good people at the University of Colorado.


JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Parents and Colorado University football players complained that a few bad apples don't mean the entire program is spoiled.

Colorado isn't the only school facing athletic scandals. Heather Nauert is here with more on the culture of big-time collegiate sports.

HEATHER NAUERT, FNC CORRESPONDENT: Nearly half a dozen college sports programs are now facing scandals.

A member of the Purdue basketball team was arrested for punching a bouncer at a bar just on Sunday night. And at St. John's University, several players were expelled for breaking curfew to go to a strip bar.

Joining me from Minneapolis is Myles Brand (search), president of the NCAA (search), for today's "big question."

Sir, is big-time college athletics simply out of control?

MYLES BRAND, PRESIDENT, NCAA: No, I don't think it's out of control. But I do think there are very serious problems to which we have to attend.

You always have to remember that the first line of defense is on the campus. It's the coaches. It's the athletic directors and, of course, the university and college presidents.

NAUERT: Well, are schools, in your view, doing enough? It seems that you can't go a day without hearing some new story of players or recruiting scandals. So are these universities doing enough to stop it and monitor their players?

BRAND: This is a wake-up call to college presidents and universities in particular.

I used to myself be a college president at Indiana University. And if I were still in that position, I would look at my athletic department, my coaches and my athletic director to assure that the student athletes are acting properly and all the right safeguards are in place.

NAUERT: In your opinion, and of course, you have a long relationship with the Indiana basketball coach Bobby Knight. In your opinion, do coaches tend to know about misbehavior on the part of their players?

BRAND: I think most coaches keep a close watch on their players. The vast, vast majority of coaches do an excellent job doing that.

When something goes wrong, the school and, if necessary, the NCAA has to investigate. And impose sanctions.

NAUERT: Is there too much incentive, then, for coaches to perhaps look the other way, because there's so much pressure for the teams to win? Is it win at all costs?

BRAND: For some, it is win at all costs, and that's totally unacceptable. But again, the vast majority of coaches and players understand what the rules are.

It can't just be win. It's — we expect our coaches we expect our schools to have morally sound programs, and the behaviors of the student athletes must be appropriate.

NAUERT: Now, the NCAA obviously plays a big role in all of this. What can your organization do to try to get to the bottom of this and prevent these scandals from happening in the future?

BRAND: The NCAA is involved in looking at the relationship between student athletes, their behavior in the schools. We've just created a task force to look at the recruiting issues which has been involved in some of the scandals.

However, it's not the NCAA that will police each institution at the first site. That depends upon the local schools, the athletic directors and the presidents. They have to be on top of it. When something is found in an investigation, we will act.

NAUERT: Well, isn't it worthwhile for the NCAA, to perhaps expand this task force that you've recently set up, to look into things other than just recruiting problems, because recruiting problems seem to be just half of it.

There is a whole other part of it, and that is just simply student behavior, when they go to parties, when they're representing the university somewhere else?

BRAND: If a crime has been committed, some hideous crime such as rape, then that's a job for law enforcement, and the institution must report it when it finds out the facts.

The NCAA does not have thousands of investigators and policemen across the country to look at every party that student athletes go to. That job falls to the coaches and falls to the schools.

NAUERT: Earlier today you said that we're not going to go through another recruiting calendar year in football without new standards in place. What exactly do you mean? What kind of standards are we talking about?

BRAND: We're talking about standards that concern behavior on recruiting visits.

The NCAA does have in place rules that talk about how long a recruiter can be on campus, how much money he or she can spend. But we have not addressed the behavioral issues. We expect common sense and common decency to control the situation.

Apparently, it's not. We're going to take stronger standards and put in place the rules that are necessary for colleges and universities to oversee these activities.

NAUERT: But in practice, actually, how will that work?

Let's take for example the University of Miami recruit, the one who went down and he's been charged with various things, including some, I believe, sexual misconduct while visiting another school?

He's not going to be out there listening to the NCAA. So how are you going to give your new plan some sort of teeth?

NAUERT: In that particular case, crimes were committed, authorities have been called, and in fact, the young man was arrested.

We have in place these rules. We expect the rules to be followed. If not, the institutions will be investigated by the NCAA, and appropriate sanctions against the schools will be initiated.

NAUERT: OK. Well, hopefully those sanctions will stick. Myles Brand, thanks so much for joining us. NCAA president — John.

GIBSON: OK. Thank you.

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