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A Call to Reassert Our National Leadership Over College Sports

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Kirk Schulz, the president of Kansas State University, is one of more than 50 college leaders who will travel to Indianapolis early next week for a high-level NCAA retreat. (Check out this story on the summit, which outlines some of the tough questions the presidents plan to address.) And he has strong words about the role that presidents should play in overseeing big-time college sports.

"Presidents need to reassert our national leadership on college sports," Schulz wrote in an e-mail while traveling in Australia this week. Much of the national agenda for college athletics -- concerning media-rights deals, for instance, or the debate over paying athletes -- is communicated by coaches, athletic directors, and conference officials, he said. "When was the last time a university president was interviewed on ESPN concerning an issue in college athletics?"

College presidents have to do what's best for their institutions, he said. "But I believe we have the responsibility to also look at what is best for college athletics," he continued. The upcoming retreat, he said, "will provide a catalyst for discussions across conference and budgetary lines -- and will better prepare us to ensure that presidents have a public voice on intercollegiate athletics."

Among the issues Schulz would like to see discussed at the meeting: Full cost of attendance for athletes. Admissions standards that ensure athletes are prepared for college. Deregulation of the NCAA rulebook, which he likened to the federal tax code in its complexity.

And: "We need the NCAA to take a firm stand on the airing of high school football games on national TV networks," he said, withholding any outright reference to fellow Big 12 member Texas, which has drawn criticism for plans to broadcast such games on its new Longhorn Network. "This is an issue that is not going to go away by ignoring it, and it will need action from the NCAA in order to set some guidelines before it gets out of hand."

Schulz continued: "It is important for university presidents to publicly show that we are in control of college athletics, and are not letting the tail wag the dog."

-- Libby Sander
The Chronicle of Higher Education