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April 3, 2003
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA
WALLY RENFRO: Good afternoon. Welcome to this press conference with Myles Brand. We're going to have a press conference today with NCAA president Myles Brand. Before we begin, there are about three people that I would like to introduce to you that you need to get to know. Danita Edwards, who is vice president for public affairs for the NCAA, Jeff Howard, who is the new managing director of public relations, and from probably about this point forward, you'll see him at press conferences instead of me, which I know will be a big relief for all of you. Also Gail Dent, who is in the public relations staff, as well, associate director of public relations. On the Dais at the far right is Kevin Lennon, vice president for membership services; David Berst, chief of staff for Division I; and, of course, Myles Brand, NCAA president. Myles will open with a few comments, then we will move to questions.
MYLES BRAND: Thank you, Wally. Thank you all for being here. I'm approaching a hundred days in this job. I thought it might be useful and helpful to pass on some reflections. I've enjoyed the position enormously. I like the job, and I say that in great part because I enjoy and believe in intercollegiate athletics. As University President, I always worked on the issue of student success, and I continue to do that. Student success now is defined by the 360,000 student athletes in all three divisions. College sports is great entertainment, and quite enjoyable to the millions of spectators. College sports on each campus is a terrific way for the community to connect with that college or university. Now, for these last 90 to a hundred days, I've been what I've called the two-headed calf tour. I feel like the two-headed calf in a county fair. Everyone wants to get a look at you, but I'm sure the curiosity will wear off quite soon. I've had the opportunity to meet and speak with many people in intercollegiate athletics, many members of the press, including some of you, either in person or on the phone. As a result of these discussions and encounters, some themes have begun to emerge. First I want to say something about the people who work with college athletes and in college sports. It would be difficult in my view to find a group of individuals more passionate about what they do or more devoted to making intercollegiate athletics a quality experience for student athletes. The pressures for athletic administrators are enormous, need to recruit quality athletes, provide equitable opportunities, win games and be the all-American person and create the all-American experience everyone wants them to be. The job is somehow to meet everyone's needs, generate positive images for the campus, develop diverse programs, fill seats, grow the number of fans and donations, make the administration and faculty happy, and do so while sustaining the underlying deep principles of amateur athletics. My hat goes off to them. They do it well. It's an important set of tasks. Second, I found intercollegiate athletics to be as value-rich as I presumed. We have a tendency to take for granted the positive value and constructive role college athletics plays on our campuses and in our culture. When I talk about the need to advocate for these values and the experiences inherent in college sports, I am finding genuine and real support. I do understand that it's a natural human tendency to focus on problems, to cry the abusers. Certainly there are problems we must address, and we need to single out those who twist the enterprise for personal gain or fail to value education. But having said that, I have found the vast majority of those with whom I've spoken to be committed to the positive values of intercollegiate athletics, to the wonderful teaching experience that it is. These are people of great integrity. Third, I found real support for the academic reform effort. Now, you need to recall that the academic reform effort is not just a single change or a form, it's a set compilation of several reforms. And many of these have started long before I took this office. To give one prominent example, the incentives and disincentives. I don't take credit for that. It started several years ago. I've had discussions with others long before I came into this position. I am a believer in that approach to dealing with some of the problems we face in intercollegiate athletics, but I cannot take credit for initiating that approach. New standards have already been put in place to enhance initial and continuing eligibility that will insure better prepared student athletes from high school, better achieving student athletes on campus and improve graduation rates. With respect to graduation rates, we use the system which is federally mandated, of looking at a six-year window. The coaches are right in expressing their concerns that that's not an accurate way of counting. That way, for example, disadvantages unfairly universities, programs, and teams when a student athlete in good academic standing leaves for legitimate reason. We need a better way to count graduation. Fortunately, the NCAA has been hard at work at that for over a year, and our expectation is something fair and usable will shortly be forthcoming. Built on a fair way of counting graduation rates, we need to hold institutions responsible for making sure that while student athletes are under their care, they are being educated and they do have the opportunity to graduate. We should reward those institutions and programs that excel at doing this, not just in basketball, but in other sports. And we should be prepared to take action when that's not the case. Again, this is one part of the reform effort - an important part, mind you, but only one part. Also when I came into this office, at least shortly thereafter, Title IX was on the table. I'm a firm believer in Title IX. It's not broken, and it should not be fixed. I've said that on a number of occasions. The basic idea is that if we're right in believing that there's value attached to participation in college sports, and indeed sports at younger ages, high school and below, why would we even consider not affording those same opportunities to gain value to women as we do to men? I believe there should be opportunities for both men and women, proportionate to their interests, in intercollegiate sports. We will await the decision of Secretary Page (phonetic) having completed the work, the commission he appointed. Finally, I'm impressed with the student athletes who participate in college sports. The experience they take from the campus is an enriched one. They do all the same things other students do - go to class, study, take tests, write papers, prepare for exams ,and stay up late in dorms for talking sessions. They also devote a sizable amount of their time and energy to physical preparation and participation in competitive athletics. In their spare time, they're often asked to be the face of the campus within the community at hospitals, at homes for the elderly, working for young children, and community outreach efforts. And they do all that well and they graduate taking into account all sports at a higher percentage than the general student body. It is no small wonder, then, why so many student athletes have become leaders in our society and in our communities. As you can see in my remarks today, I've spent most of my time talking about the positive values of intercollegiate athletics, and the strong and able people who work in it and who participate. There are problems. I will obviously admit that and I'm not Pollyanna-ish. I'm sure you'll help to bring those to light in the question period. But I did want to take this opportunity to stress the positive and constructive side of intercollegiate athletics. With that, I thank you for listening and prepare to be open for questions.
WALLY RENFRO: Thank you, Myles. We will take questions. I would ask you to raise your hand, let someone with a microphone get to you.
Q. Are you disturbed by what happened at North Carolina and the eventual ouster of Coach Doherty?
MYLES BRAND: That decision was made on the basis of his performance or on the basis of the participation of student athletes or the way the decision was made or all of the above?
Q. All of the above.
MYLES BRAND: I don't know enough about the details of the situation to say that I'm disturbed or concerned. My reading of the case, I've only looked at the papers on this, is that student athletes were asked for their opinion. There's nothing unusual about that. That happens on many occasions. The decision-making process, as far as I know, was one that was normal. The school made a decision, president in consultation with others, in athletics and beyond, I'm confident, made a decision to move on. So I really don't know enough about the case other than what I mentioned to be specific.
WALLY RENFRO: Next question, please.
Q. With the academic reforms, is the goal to get coaches to recruit athletes who are better prepared to get through college academically?
MYLES BRAND: I think that's part of the goal, but I think it's really a larger goal than that. It's to provide a sufficient knowledge base for young student athletes and their parents and guardians that succeeding in school is necessary for continued eligibility. If we start the process in college, it's probably too late. So I think it's to get into the culture or indeed the basketball culture of all student athletes at all ages, including the younger ones, the importance of being able to succeed in school and to better understand the value of a college education.
Q. Student athlete opportunity fund, in some ways that's being portrayed as a step towards "pay for play." I'm wondering if you could address that, how will that fund be administered or distributed? The other thing we're hearing is competitive equity, who is going to get more, who is going to get less. Could you talk about your hopes for that?
MYLES BRAND: We're in the middle of that decision-making process. We've asked the conferences to provide a means for how funds may be distributed. It is a great deal of money over the 11-year length of the CBS contract, the total amount is about three-quarters of a billion dollars, so it obviously needs serious consideration. I do not at all see it as a first step or a partial step towards pay-for-play. Some of the money will go into student needs, low-income students, special emergency travel and so on. Some of the money, again we must get the recommendations from the conferences first, some of the money may go towards moving from a financial aid package that covers scholarship, room and board, books, to one that's closer to the full course of attendance. On average, the full course of attendance is about $2,000 more than a scholarship package right now. That's, again, being able to assure that student athletes can have a full college experience. We also have to be careful to think that not all of this money will be provided just to needy students because those who really come from a low-income family can supplement their financial aid with Pell grants and sometimes with state grants that bring them up to and, even in a few cases, pass the full course of attendance, at least the average course.
WALLY RENFRO: Next question.
Q. Your friend Professor Sperber said that while he was impressed with some of the things you did at Indianapolis, he said, "Don't look for a lot of major reforms because your an establishment figure." How do you react to that? Should we look for major reforms under your tenure?
MYLES BRAND: Some of you guys have been writing about me, that I'm too energetic about reforms. I'm not sure how well that squares with Professor Sperber's assessment (laughter).
Q. I was hoping to get your thoughts on the appropriate relationship between beer companies in terms of sports marketing and college sports in general? Certainly there are some who feel there should be a severance, a total break in that relationship. What are your views and do you see the NCAA taking any role or looking into that?
MYLES BRAND: Well, the NCAA has taken some role. For example, there was a request that the next generation of cat-fight commercials from Miller be put on the air. We exercised our option in the contract with CBS not to permit that. So it is a revenue question, but we felt strongly about it. So there has to be some sense of decorum in commercials. Beer commercials, it's not clear, at least the research I've seen, it's not yet clear how much of a role they play just if you look at the sports games in terms of affecting college drinking. More research needs to be done on that. You know, if you just take the beer commercials out of college sports media, I'm not sure what effect that will have because beer commercials appear in many, many other places, as well. So we do need some research on that. I would like to have that research done in a cooperative way, with others who undertake beer commercials, in order to get a sense of what could be done and how effective it will be in resolving the problem. Not for a minute will I suggest that alcohol overindulgence is not a problem on campuses. It is a problem, and a very serious one. I've seen that firsthand as a college president. I'm not sure it's being caused by the beer commercials in sporting events.
Q. You said earlier there should be opportunity for both men and women proportionate to their interests. It's my understanding that that's not how opportunity is gauged at this point. Is that something you're interested in pursuing? If so, how do you propose to gauge interest?
MYLES BRAND: Thank you for asking that because it needs elaboration. I think interest is a function of opportunity and not conversely. That is to say, you create interest through opportunity. So in 1972, just prior to the passage of Title IX, 16% of the student athletes were women. If you took an interest study, you say, "Only 16% of women are interested in intercollegiate athletics, we'll freeze it at that." What Title IX did was create a series of interests over several decades; now it's up to 43%. I believe the way it, in fact, works, the way the world works here, is that interest is generated through opportunity. So I want to be assured that there's adequate opportunity for women to participate. And I think that in turn will develop the interest.
Q. At each of the NCAA basketball games I've attended, prior to the tip-off, they read a statement attributed to you, your name is mentioned. Would you clarify whether you or the NCAA is endorsing or is supporting our fighting men and women? Since many of the 360,000 athletes oppose the war and also feel great concern for victims who are non-American, innocent victims, might you consider altering this statement that will be read in Atlanta and here?
MYLES BRAND: The NCAA, and certainly myself personally, deeply support the men and women who are fighting abroad. We are Americans and we support our country. I'm never happy about war - any war. Sometimes wars are justified and they must be fought. They must be fought for the freedom not only of Americans but freedom of others, as well. I hope the war comes to a rapid conclusion with as few deaths and injuries on the American side and all sides. But make no mistake about it, I am wholly supportive of the men and women in uniform.
Q. Back on the question about beer ads. What is your attitude about institutions that sell beer and wine at their athletic events on campus?
MYLES BRAND: David, help me here, but I believe we have no authority in that regard.
DAVID BERST: That's right.
MYLES BRAND: And we did not do that at the schools, at Indiana University, we did not sell beer and wine in the stadium. I must say it did not prevent students from drinking outside the stadium, but we did not sell beer and wine. That is an individual institutional decision. To the extent that that, in fact, affects behavior is still not very clear. My intuition at the time of not letting it take place at IU is that it would negatively affect behavior, so we didn't do it. But it's an institutional decision. It falls under the rubric of institutional control.
Q. Tom Osborne recently introduced legislation in the House regarding a new betting ban bill in Nevada. I want to get your thoughts on that. Also if you would clarify your position from the NCAA's standpoint on trying to eliminate legalized sports betting on college events in the state of Nevada? Given the recent information about a Florida State football player betting online on his own games, do you feel that's an area that really is more of concern in the long run to the NCAA rather than legalized betting?
MYLES BRAND: I have at least three questions I picked up there. The first one, we're very supportive of Tom Osborne's bill. We couldn't agree more that all steps that are possible should be taken to prevent Internet betting on intercollegiate athletics, which that bill addresses. We're hopeful that it will greatly reduce such betting. I'm not at this point sure it will completely eliminate it, but will greatly reduce it. With respect to Las Vegas betting, you may recall in the past we were highly supportive of the McCain bill. That was an attempt to -- didn't go very far last year, as you know, but it was an attempt to restrict gaming on college sports in Las Vegas and Nevada in general. I think that position last year remains our position, and we will be consistent in that regard. I don't really know enough about the Florida State, except that's a case that's under investigation. To that extent, frankly, if I knew something about it, I couldn't tell you because it's under investigation. The truth of the matter is I don't know much about it, other than the fact he was prohibited from playing.
WALLY RENFRO: I should also remind you that Bill Saum and Dave Price are also here today. If you have other questions about sports wagering, I'm sure they'd be happy to talk to you afterwards, as well.
Q. In light of the recent academic fraud scandals, is there any concern that by giving rewards or punishments, based on graduation rates, that it could put more pressure on coaches and almost encourage coaches to take shortcuts or you could see an increase in academic fraud that way?
MYLES BRAND: I don't know. The analogy is if we would stop laws about theft, we would have less theft. I don't think that works. I think if you have punishments and rewards, they tend to affect behavior. We expect the behavioral change to be more favorable as a result. I don't think it will lead to more abuse when you have punishments, as do you in the law. You tend to have less abuse.
Q. At the end of the year, certainly the end of the basketball season, we had a number of schools that were self-reporting violations, taking early action on themselves. In your position now, is that something where you're applauding that action or are you concerned it has to be taken even in the first place? Second part of that question is a number of CEOs have stepped in and taken some action, but also some CEOs have been involved on the athletic side in actions they should not have. What is your concern there?
MYLES BRAND: Yes, that's an important question. Yes, I am concerned. I think we've had a spate of abuses, including academic fraud issues in recent weeks leading up to the tournament. It is of great concern to me. I think you have to look at each case separately. In one case, the St. Bonaventure case, we have an instance in which a president overruled his compliance officer, against what anyone would consider good judgment, interceded and permitted a student to play who wasn't really eligible. That president was fired. I did have a conversation with the chair of the board who called me and assured me that that won't happen again at St. Bonaventure. I believe it. I think that was an appropriate action. In the other cases, we have instances in which presidents and CEOs stood up and were counted, cases in which, though they themselves weren't involved in academic fraud, there was an institutional problem. Michigan was an early case, and then of course there was Georgia, in your neighborhood, as well as Fresno State and perhaps one or two others, as well. I'm unhappy that those situations occurred in the first place, of course. We all, including those presidents, prefer not to have that have happened. Having said, that I give a great deal of credit and praise to those presidents who stood up and were counted. I know in each case, including the case of Michael Adams, there was a lot of local pressure to do otherwise, not to withdraw from the tournament, at least to postpone until the tournament was finished, to take stalling steps, or even to ignore the problems. I give those presidents a great deal of credit for their courage and their right action. It is not easy to stand up and be counted and take responsibility, and they did that. I believe that's a hopeful sign, a good sign, for the presidents moving together to assure that an academic reform movement is successful and full integrity is returned to all of intercollegiate athletics, especially men's basketball. That doesn't mean there won't be problems in the future. It will never be perfect. But if we can handle the problems in that way, of self-reporting, strong stands by presidents, I think we'll minimize the impact of them.
Q. As a devil's advocate to your semi-endorsement of the Georgia and Fresno situations, isn't it also factual that those two presidents were responsible essentially for the hiring of people who had had a great deal of difficulty with NCAA regulations at their previous school, and particularly Dr. Adams and his relationship with Jim Harrick who had been in trouble every place he'd ever been?
MYLES BRAND: I think in making those hirings, those presidents did not exercise best judgment. They gave those individuals and probably were insured directly by them another chance. They did nothing illegal, nothing against the rules. It's a question of judgment. In hindsight, it wasn't a good set of decisions. I'm sure they've learned from them. But more importantly, I hope that other presidents and athletic directors have learned from that, as well.
WALLY RENFRO: Bill is attending his 43rd Final Four, by the way. Congratulations.
Q. I think it's 42.
WALLY RENFRO: We don't want to exaggerate, Bill (laughter).
Q. Your response to the presidential response to academic fraud, you had said it is not easy to stand up and be counted, and you applaud those presidents for doing so. My question is, when you are the president of a university and the CEO, why should it be difficult to stand up and be counted? Does that not raise any concern about what's going on in college sports?
MYLES BRAND: Well, frankly, it's not just in college sports. Whenever a president goes against the trend, even if he or she is acting rightly, there's a lot of community pressure to do otherwise, sometimes internal to the university, often external to the university, especially if you're dealing with an individual who is popular for other reasons. I think it's just the nature of the presidency, if you want to be successful, you've got to learn when and how to do that and stand on principle and be prepared to take the consequences. In the past, some presidents who have done that have not kept their jobs, and there is risk. Doing the right thing is not always the easiest task. And when someone does the right thing, even if they are in part responsible for getting themselves in the fix, if they do the right thing, I think they should be applauded and recognized for that. Let's not underestimate the real world pressure that they're under coming from many quarters. Some quarters, for example, faculty, may well be applauding them, but many fans may not. Standing up and doing the right thing is not easy, but you have to do it sometimes.
Q. Can you just address how the tournament has gone so far, how do you think this year in particular has been a success, whether it's gotten better?
MYLES BRAND: Well, I think the tournament's gone fine. But the tournament, leaving aside the spate of abuses we talked about before, is taking place during the time this country is at war. To pretend that's not a factor in the way we look at and enjoy the games, even the way the media presents the games, would be naive. Of course, it's a factor. I think given that, I think we've done very well. I'm very pleased with it. I think it's great fan support, adds morale to people on the home front. At least everything I know, it's a morale builder for those who are fighting for the country at this time. I'm very pleased with the way the games are going. The tournament has gone well. It's been conducted well. We've looked after the safety and well-being of not just the teams and coaches, but the fans. I'm very pleased with it. I think our media partner, CBS, has done an excellent job of telling people about ongoing events, as well as presenting the games well and took an extraordinary step in their initial partnership with ESPN to make those games available for those who wanted to watch.
WALLY RENFRO: Any other questions?
Q. Talking to some of the players during this tournament, they're very impressed with the opportunity to play in a great tournament, but they also are impressed with the commercialism that surrounds with this event. They keep sort of over -- I keep hearing louder and louder of players saying, "Are we getting our fair share?" I'm wondering, getting back to the opportunity fund, is that a way to sort of quiet those voices somehow without actually having to pay everyone who participates? I'm sort of asking this in the context of the T-shirt sales, $100 million to the New Orleans economy coming in.
MYLES BRAND: The opportunities fund, let me be very clear, is not a substitute of pay for play. I'm strictly against pay for play. If athletes want to receive money for their play, there is a way for them to do it. It's called the professional leagues. This is college sports. I think student athletes, including the stars, receive a great deal from their participation. Certainly college education is important and valuable in many ways. You can measure it in $1.2 million in earning power against those who only have a high school education. The ability to gain the skills through very strong and proficient coaching that places them in a position to take advantage of their natural athletic ability and to move on to the pros. That's a benefit they receive, as well as the visibility they receive at the tournament. They do receive a great deal of benefit. That's fine. That's good. I think with respect to commercialization, there's always an important balance point you have to have between making the games available to spectators through the media on a national and, indeed, international basis versus overcommercialization that harms the integrity of the game. I know of no algorithms, no formulas that tell us exactly how to do it. It takes good judgment and good taste and some experience to get it done. I hope we have reached that appropriate balance point, not overcommercializing it, not taking advantage of student athletes, but at the same time, broadcast through the media so it can be enjoyed by many, and the funds that go to the schools can be used to support other athletes and other sports of the. As you know, approximately 95% of all the revenue goes back to the schools, the NCAA for operating expenses takes approximately 5%. I wish most universities could operate on 5% of their revenue for administration. But that's what we take for administration. That goes back to the schools, and it's used by the schools for the support of other sports and their intercollegiate athletic programs. I believe we've reached the right balance point.
Q. We've been seeing these public service announcements running through the games making the point that you just did, about athletes, how they're going to be professionals, go on to great glory. Yet at the same time I've been getting e-mails every other day announcing a new corporate partner program, companies like Cingular and Coke have been aggressive about marketing their ties to the NCAA during this tournament. Do you see any irony between those two messages, any disconnect?
MYLES BRAND: I think we're careful about the corporate partners we pick and how we're presented. I believe we're doing it in good taste. We are trying to create visibility for the game so that more spectators can enjoy it and the student athletes can demonstrate their skills publicly.
We're also trying to create a revenue stream that will go back to the schools and take off some of the revenue pressure that they're all feeling more and more these days as budgets are tight. You know that as well as I do. This will provide some opportunities for them. Again, I think we've reached the right balance point. I think we're trying to use good taste and good judgment. You can be excessive in commercialization. I don't believe we are in this tournament.
Q. I was speaking today with Todd Turner, I believe the chair of the incentive, disincentive committee. I asked him, "Is there a danger that you can try to create a rule that is supposed to fit all, to fit a square peg into a round hole, that you are discussing institutions, urban institutions, which may have overall graduation rates in the 20 and 30%, up to private schools that are over 90%?" How are they moving in that direction?
MYLES BRAND: We have to be very careful not to think that one shoe fits all sizes. You're absolutely right. This is not an easy task. It's a complicated task. First of all, you have to have a base, a floor below which... Minimal graduation rates for any school. Also you have to put it into the context of the general student body of that school. Kevin has been working with that group closely. Kevin, would you care to comment on that.
KEVIN LENNON: I'd be happy to. That is something that the working group, which Todd Turner does chair, is wrestling with this very afternoon. As Myles noted, I think the current thinking is that there probably is an absolute floor that would be created that would be deemed unacceptable by our board of directors and by the presidents. At the same time, you've got to be cognizant of the different missions that exist. That is what the working group is looking at today. The only other thing I would note that I think is critically important is a shift away from the graduation rates. You heard Dr. Brand in his opening remarks talk about the fact that most people who follow that believe that those are flawed, that they currently are underestimating the academic success that we have at some of our institutions when you consider transfer students. On that point, if I may, the board has been very clear in listening to coaches and listening to athletic administrators that a new metric is needed, and one will be introduced through the board of directors that will help address those issues of transfer students, so we can do a better job of identifying and accurately measuring the academic success. But in addition, and this ties directly back to your point of mission, we want to find a way of measuring in real-time the academic success on a yearly basis of each team. And the current graduation rates do not do that, and the proposed NCAA graduation success rate that I spoke of will not do that. So we need something else that would, in fact, be a real-time measurement of student athletes' academic performance. The challenge of that commission in that regard is we don't have a similar metric for our student body. We do more and expect more of our student athletes in terms of making regular progress to enjoy the benefits of athletic participation than we do for any of the other student body. We're trying to figure out if we can find a way to parallel what we're asking of our student athletes in a methodology, from a methodology perspective, with that of the student body. That's going to be a challenge. I would imagine by the end of this month, we'll be able to share with you and share with the membership the thoughts of that working group in that regard.
Q. In your time as president of the NCAA, perhaps before, what is your take on the attitude of the school presidents towards the establishment of a I-A football playoff?
MYLES BRAND: I think the jury is out on a I-A football playoff. I think the discussion is gaining momentum. I don't know if it has yet been seriously gauged. I think preparatory work is underway right now. A response will probably be needed in the next two years as the ABC contract runs out. The decision makers here, let's be clear, are the presidents of the six BCS conferences. They have identified representatives from each conference to work on it. That discussion is underway. To be frank, I cannot predict how that discussion will turn out.
WALLY RENFRO: There may be some of you who want one-on-one follow-up questions. We'll try to make President Brand available right down here to the left for a few minutes. If there are no other questions, and it doesn't look like there are, we'll bring this press conference to a conclude. Thank you very much for coming.
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