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April 3, 2008
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome. We will be starting the press conference. Dr. Brand will be making a few comments. Following his comments, we'll be opening the floor up for questions.
DR. MYLES BRAND: Thank you all for coming today.
First, I want to make clear that San Antonio is a terrific place to hold a Final Four. It's a great town. I remember we were here last in 2004. As good as the event was then, we've enlarged the event in terms of time away from the games, opportunities for fans. That's been terrific.
But the people, the City of San Antonio, are really tremendous to work with, the local organizing committee and everyone else involved. We're very pleased about that.
We're looking forward to this fan-friendly weekend and to great games. This is the battle of the Final Four Titans. It's the four Titans, you might say it sounds like the committee finally got it right.
But the fact of the matter is, this is the first time that No. 1 seeds, as you well know, are in the finals. These next three games are going to be tremendous. They're all superb teams. They're strong contenders. We're expecting great games, very competitive games, as well.
There are a couple of issues I want to talk about and then I'm open to questions on any topic you'd like.
Last year when I met with you, I talked about the fact that we saw prospectively as much as 40% of the Division I basketball teams facing APR sanctions, including more serious historical sanctions.
We're down to approximately half that, less than half that number right now. And there are a number of critically important reasons for that. One of the main reasons - and this is good news - is that many teams have improved. And by "improved," we mean better than chance. So we have a clear definition of improvement, namely better than chance. So there's been some genuine improvement on a number of teams.
In addition, following the policy of trying to change behavior rather than sanction, we have found that by starting working with individual teams, coaches, and, indeed, athletic departments and institutions as a whole, designing improvement plans, we are on the path for serious positive change.
We're working directly with each of those programs. The idea is that one shoe doesn't necessarily fit all. We're looking at that, not just for the sport of basketball, but individual institutions as well.
By creating improvement plans, getting signed-off commitments to those improvement plans, it enables the school within one, two, at most three years, to really make some changes. And that is another reason why the level of sanctions is not as high.
That doesn't mean that we've reached the point which we still don't have issues. We do. Approximately 17% of all Division I men's basketball programs will receive sanctions, either contemporaneous sanctions, which means loss of scholarships, or stronger sanctions, which is the historical penalties, and some teams, in fact, are going to receive both contemporaneous and historical penalties.
So we still have a lot of work to do, but we are making progress, and that's the good news.
We see some teams that are doing extremely well. For example, we will be issuing the four-year APR numbers in May. We do have a reasonably good idea what they are now. We're still working through some of the details, so it's premature to release them. But at least I can say this: every Final Four team on the four-year APR is above 925, and several of them, three of them, are well above it. In fact, one team, University of North Carolina, for a four-year rate, has a 995. That's remarkable, it really is. It means just one individual over a four-year period. So we're seeing some very high-performing teams academically as well.
The positive trends are a result of a number of issues. For example, we now have in place the transfer rule. So if a student-athlete is transferring from one school to another, not merely just have to sit out a year, which stays in effect, but unless they leave the first institution academically eligible, they're not open to receive a scholarship in the new school. So rather than have kids blow off the second semester because they think they're going to transfer, right now you're not going to get a scholarship, even though you have to sit out a year, unless you are academically eligible. And that is having some positive effects, as well.
The trends on eligibility continue to be very positive in basketball, even more so in football and baseball, but they are positive in basketball as well. We are seeing some retention issues in basketball, where football and baseball have improved in retention, the R point. It's at best flat in basketball.
What is going on there? Well, one thing you have to look at in terms of basketball, basketball, more than any sport, sees a turnover of coaches. The last two years we've seen 18% coaching turnover in Division I. That's a big number. We have to ask the question, Why is that occurring?
The fan expectation is a lot higher. The salary structure's gone up. That, I think, drives some of the fan expectation, institutional expectation. But retention loss is correlated to coaching change. Even in the best of circumstances, when you have a coaching change, you do have, at least for a period of time, one, two, sometimes as many as three years before that program levels out. You do have some retention issues. So I think that's part of it, as well.
One of the approaches we've tried to take is to look at it sport specific rather than trying to, as I mentioned, trying to paint everyone with the same brush. We've created in the past, a baseball committee. That's already reported. You all know about the changes we've made in baseball. We're in the middle now of a basketball academic enhancement committee, and we're performing a football academic enhancement committee. In basketball, we're in the middle of the program.
Importantly we engage the coaches directly in these conversations, and they are serving on those committees and coming up with suggestions. Let me give you one or two outcomes of this work so far. Now, one of the issues we're considering, and I think this is a creative idea that emerged from the coaches, is to move towards a three-and-a-half-year program in basketball. So right now, a number of the young men start even before the freshman year and will take three or six credits. We're looking at - it's not passed yet, but it's under serious consideration - requirements, at least in the first two years, after the freshman year, after the sophomore year, requiring students to be in summer school attendance.
Coupled with that would be a redoing of the access that coaches have to student-athletes, basketball coaches have to student-athletes, not only during the summers, but also before they start the program. We need to work through that. We'll need to give the student-athletes relief after the tournament. So we have to make sure that it balances. If you give them access at one time, you have to have some free time for students. We'll have to balance that.
We'll also have to deal with what we do for eligibility. Suppose a student-athlete, after three and a half years, graduates but they still have another semester of eligibility left in the second semester. What would happen there? They would need to be students taking at least six credits, but presumably graduate students. Some of them may not finish their program, the graduate program, and we'd have to work through that as well.
So there are some serious complications to this. Who would pay for summer school? Well, the institutions would have to pay for the summer school. Some institutions already do that, but some do not. And that's an additional cost, then, for these athletic programs. So we'd have to work our way through that.
But it looks like those student-athletes who stay around, basketball players, during the summer, do better academically and are in a tighter program. They may take less credits during the school year, but more during the summer. So that's one possibility.
Another set of issues we're looking at is JC transfers. JC transfers are 0 for 2, a polite way of saying flunking out, are 0 for 2s twice as much as other transfers, and even more so than what we'll call native students, who started the original institution.
So 25%, actually more than 25%, of Division I basketball players are JC transfers. And we've got to make sure that those students are coming into our institutions better prepared.
I met just two days ago with the California Community College Athletic Community, that's one-third of the community colleges in this country. With that group, as well as our national meetings we've had with community colleges, we're beginning to talk about what we might call an academic redshirting year. Is there some opportunity for student-athletes, basketball players, who need a full year of remediation to hold the academic clock back till they're really ready to participate so they might practice without playing under those conditions, so it would be an academic redshirt year. Are there some opportunities that way so that we can deal with the JC transfers?
We don't want to stop the JC transfers, but we want to make sure they're coming in academically prepared and can succeed in our institutions.
So those are the kind of issues we're looking at. They're very much basketball-specific. The bottom line again is we are making progress, indeed significant progress, since the last time I talked with you. That's good because last time I spoke with you about this was a warning, and I think everyone has risen to the occasion. There's still a lot of hard work to do and a lot of specific approaches that we'll need to take for basketball.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Now we'll start our question period.
Q. We're wondering about the future of our college basketball championships here in San Antonio. Can you talk about how the NCAA feels about hosting college basketball championships in San Antonio? Do you see more championships coming here in the future?
DR. MYLES BRAND: We'll continue to go through our bid process, continue to look for opportunities to give every city a fair chance.
I've got to tell you, San Antonio's just a great place to hold the games. As I mentioned, 2004 was terrific. I'm really looking forward to the games here. The city does one of the greatest jobs in the country.
So we won't make it impossible, but there's a lot of competition out there, different kinds of venues, new venues. I think it's a real challenge to make sure everyone gets a fair shot at it.
I have to say, and I started saying it on purpose, namely San Antonio is a great place to hold the games.
Q. The pod system, there's statistical evidence that the pod system is skewed towards the top seeds and also the teams that play closer to home. Should the NCAA make a better effort to make sure that these games are played at neutral sites and not what we saw with North Carolina in Raleigh, then Charlotte, and UCLA in Anaheim?
DR. MYLES BRAND: I'm going to call on my pod expert, Greg Shaheen.
GREG SHAHEEN: The pod system, just to trace back history, when, was put into place heading into the 2002 Championship, primarily as the membership reviewed the travel structure of the championship, namely that for a running period of three years, schools had family members and followers of schools had indicated that it was becoming economically impossible for them to follow their schools.
So the committee in the summer of 2001 put what was then known as the pods, now the geographic placement of the teams, into place.
If you look at the performance of teams, there's several different things that need to be kept in mind. The reward of being a top-five seed in the tournament is to not face a home-crowd disadvantage only in the first rounds. Beyond that, after the first rounds, so after the field of 64 narrows -- or 65 narrows to 32, the objective is that any team vying for the national championship should be able to play anywhere and should be able to win anywhere because it requires six games and six victories in order to win the championship.
This is a topic of conversation from time to time with the National Association of Basketball Coaches, and among the basketball committee members. In terms of an adjustment to the pod system, it simply has not been something that has been of interest.
It's important to point out that the board of directors from the National Association of Basketball Coaches, is made up of coaches of every subdivision as well as every division of the NCAA, in that point.
It's also important to point out that if you also trace historically the higher seeds are going to win regardless of where they play. So the notion that adding accessibility for those fans, followers, and family who are close to the venue or the home base of the institutions playing at a particular venue has continued to be the priority of the membership.
Q. Dr. Brand, there have been a few fairly high-profile officiating, I don't know if you'd call them problems, but issues this year. I was wondering just your general thoughts about the quality and the evaluation system that you have in place, and if you see any changes in any of that on the horizon?
DR. MYLES BRAND: Officiating is a human endeavor. There are mistakes made. By and large, the vast majority of them are highly skilled. All of them I think are well-intentioned and work hard at it.
Fans don't always agree with every call. Sometimes one team will get a couple favorable calls and people think that there's something going on. There isn't.
We continue to look at officiating. As you might know, Hank Nichols, who has been in charge nationally of officials, has done a tremendous job for an extended period of time for us. He's retiring, and John Adams is coming on to take on his job right after this Final Four.
We will continue to look to make sure that our officials are consistent across the country in their calls, that they're well-trained in terms of what our expectations are, that the mechanics are there. We will continue to look in terms of their qualifications as well as doing background checks.
So I think it will never be perfect. That's the nature of officiating. But you will not be able to fault us for not trying hard enough to make sure that as much as possible we put people in the right places to make the right decisions.
Q. Last year, Ohio State had two players that were just freshmen, then left for the NBA. There's speculation at least two players from the current Final Four teams might do the same thing. Any concerns from the NCAA from the "one-and-done" players?
DR. MYLES BRAND: We don't have concerns about it. We think it's better that they stay two years. Two is better than one. In fact, I would prefer they stay at least three and maybe four. That would be my preference.
But there is conversation going on about staying an extra year. I think you'll be interested in the CBS issues show that takes place this weekend in which David Stern and I are sitting down for a joint interview and we discuss that topic. You may be surprised what comes out of that. But you know what my starting position is (smiling).
Q. Have you ever met William Wesley and do you have any concern over his influence in college basketball?
DR. MYLES BRAND: Who is that?
Q. William Wesley.
DR. MYLES BRAND: I don't know who he is.
Q. Do you think you should know him? He's the person that most people consider the most powerful person in college basketball?
DR. MYLES BRAND: I've read him. I don't recall meeting him.
Q. Anything else on Wes?
DR. MYLES BRAND: No. I mean, I may have shaken his hand, but I don't even recall that. I shake a lot of people's hands. I do not know him. I've never worked with him.
Am I concerned about people who have influence on basketball that one might not consider healthy, leaving aside this one individual? You bet. All the time. That's one of our critical issues. I don't have any particular issue with him because I just don't know him. You asked me if I ever met him or worked with him, the answer is no.
Q. You have read about him, though.
DR. MYLES BRAND: I have read about him.
Q. What did you think about what you read?
DR. MYLES BRAND: I think reporters do a good job in trying to discover these kinds of issues. Thank you for doing that.
Q. Where is the NCAA in regard to Houston Baptist University in terms of the school rejoining the NCAA?
DR. MYLES BRAND: We welcome Houston Baptist rejoining the NCAA back from the NAIA. We have a process that they have to go through. They wish to short circuit the process. That's not acceptable. They had been contemplating, and I don't know the current status of it, but they have been contemplating legal actions along those lines.
We're quite comfortable with where our process is and we will continue to defend that.
Q. I believe they're under the impression after a three-year period of application, they are able to rejoin the NCAA. Is it more years than that?
DR. MYLES BRAND: It's seven years. They're coming from NAIA. They gave up -- it's Division I, wasn't it? They gave up their Division I membership for reasons that worked for them. Now they've made a new decision and they want to come back into the NCAA. We welcome them, as we do other NAIA members. But like all other NAIA members, we have a process they have to go through.
Q. You said conversations are going on, is that between the NCAA and the NBA about changing the rule?
DR. MYLES BRAND: No, it's not. That's a good question. I'm glad you asked it.
The NCAA has no role whatsoever to play in the age limitation rule because that is entirely, entirely, a management/labor issue within the NBA. I'm always saying I want to go longer.
Q. Who are the conversations between then?
DR. MYLES BRAND: I think you should listen to the CBS issues show. I don't have any say, never had, never will, but I like the directions that David Stern is pointing toward.
Q. You won't tell us what direction that's going?
DR. MYLES BRAND: Watch the show (smiling).
THE MODERATOR: Saturday afternoon.
Q. On the subject of coaches retention, are you disturbed at all when a school fires a coach after two years? There has been discussion in the past of giving players flexibility regarding their letter of intent when there's a coaching change made. Are those discussions ongoing? Do you see any hope for anything like that ever coming to pass?
DR. MYLES BRAND: You know, I think it depends a great deal on the reason for which the coach was fired. If the coach is fired for NCAA violations or a felony, to take it to an absolute extreme case, then the school has to act and the contract should so read.
But sometimes there's pressure on the question of competitive performance. So I feel uncomfortable about either side, either the coach or the school, breaking a multi-year contract because they made a mistake on who they hired or the performance isn't up to the expectation of the fans.
We're getting a lot of that, I think more so than we should. So, again, it really depends upon the reason for the firing. When you sign a contract, I believe there's a certain obligation to keep it. And a good contract will have within it reasons in which dismissal is permissible, and that includes violations of certain kinds or certain kinds of actions.
But other than those within the contract for early dismissal, it seems to me that when you sign a contract, you should keep it on both sides. Maybe the contract shouldn't be as long. But the pressure on the coaches is clearly intensified. It might be partly from copying the professional ranks, given that the salaries are now in the same market level as some of the professional ranks. But that I don't think is good for the game. It's not good for the coaches. It's not good for the student-athletes.
About the ability of student-athletes to leave once a coach leaves, for example, when they first signed up after the letter of intent or some permission to leave once a new coach comes in. Those conversations have continued, but I don't see them going anyplace. I don't see any movement in that direction. Although it is an issue that keeps getting put back on the table.
But I don't foresee in the near future any change from where we are right now.
Q. Getting back to the academic situation. I was curious about the public relations problems sometimes you have with Mr. Lapchick always seems to release information during Bowl games or before the tournament. It seems to me it's usually based on the old system. It really doesn't have anything to do with what the -- it's six years old basically. How much of a problem is that when that gets circulated? It seems like it kind of tears down what you are trying to get accomplished.
DR. MYLES BRAND: You know, I think it's fascinating because the information that Rich Lapchick releases comes from our files. In fact, it's how you read that data. Student-athletes, including basketball players, are doing very well. They're graduating better than the demographic group. I think it's about 4 or 5%, African American male basketball players, are graduating 4 or 5% above the African American males in the general student body. So they're succeeding to a greater extent.
What Lapchick points out is that African American males in general in the student body aren't doing well, and he's right about that. But the student-athletes are doing better.
So it's kind of how you present that data. The fact is, student-athletes are doing better, and they're better now than they were last year, and better last year than they were the year before. We're seeing continued, modest but consistent trending upward, and I try to report on that as well.
What bothers me the most is when ill-informed commentators and others say that the student-athletes are, in general, performing very poorly. Now, not every student-athlete, not every team is performing well. But not every student in the general student body is performing well either. No university has a hundred percent graduation rate.
So the fact is that student-athletes in general are doing better than the general student body. Yes, they get more support, but they also work at it. They work hard at it.
I think that kind of information that comes out and is misinterpreted, and I daresay perhaps even intentionally in the worst cases, doesn't do the student-athletes any favors. It doesn't do intercollegiate athletics any favors, nor is it accurate reporting.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much.
DR. MYLES BRAND: Thank you all.
End of FastScripts