NCAA’s Emmert: It is time to decentralize college sports

© Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
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NCAA President Mark Emmert said Thursday the time is right to consider a decentralized and deregulated version of college sports, shifting power to conferences and campuses and reconsidering how schools are aligned.

Emmert said the recent Supreme Court ruling against the NCAA along with the lifting of restrictions on athletes monetizing their fame should be a catalyst to “rethink” what college sports is about.

In a 30-minute interview with a small group of reporters, Emmert stressed he was not putting forth a mandate or even a recommendation. But he laid out a vision for the future of college sports that puts fewer limitations on athletes and de-emphasizes the role of a national governing body like the NCAA, which was founded 115 years ago and oversees more than 450,000 students who play sports.

“When you have an environment like that it just forces us to think more about what constraints should be put in place ever on college athletes. And it should be the bare minimum,” Emmert said.

Emmert said the NCAA’s more than 1,100 member schools should consider a less homogenous approach to the way sports are governed and re-examine the current three division structure, which includes 355 Division I colleges.

The NCAA’s rules and regulations have long been criticized and court challenges have been mounting in recent years.

“We need to be ready to say, `Yeah, you know, for field hockey, field hockey is different than football. Wrestling is different than lacrosse,’ and not get so hung up on having everything be the same,” said Emmert, who was president of LSU and the University of Washington before taking the NCAA job in 2010.

Sports serve different functions at different schools, Emmert said, and the NCAA needs to govern in a way that is more reflective of that. He added the NCAA should not shy away from the fact that a small percentage of athletes are using college sports as a path to professional sports.

“We need to embrace that,” he said. “And with NIL out there, we’re providing other opportunities around this whole notion of using college sports as a career launching pad.”

As of July 1, the NCAA waived its longstanding rules prohibiting athletes from earning money off their fame for things such as online endorsements, sponsorship deals and personnel appearances. The move allowed athletes in states that did not have so-called name, image and likeness laws – designed to usurp the NCAA’s previous restrictions — to capitalize similarly to those in states with NIL laws, such as Florida and Georgia.

In states were there are no laws to set NIL guidelines, schools have been instructed to craft their own – a dramatic change for the NCAA. College athletes have jumped into the new market with deals big and small.

The Supreme Court ruling against the NCAA last month was also seen as a bombshell, a 9-0 decision upholding a lower court ruling in an antitrust case related to caps on compensation. Legal experts and college sports observers immediately wondered if the NCAA will look at other approaches as a result.

The types of reforms to college sports governance and structure that Emmert is now advancing are not new. The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, for one, has been promoting a plan to revamp Division I and pull major college football out of the NCAA’s purview altogether.

Emmert has spoken out against that specific idea, but his comments suggest change is certainly on the table.

“I think this is a really, really propitious moment to sit back and look at a lot of the core assumptions and say, `You know, if we were going to build college sports again, and in 2020 instead of 1920, what would that look like?”‘ Emmert said. “What would we change? What would we expect or want to be different in the way we manage it. And this is good. This is the right time.”

The NCAA’s hands-off approach to NIL reform came after months of work was done on a proposal that created standardized rules across each division and the organization was also hoping for help from Congress in the form of a federal NIL law.

After the Supreme Court ruling threw open the door for more legal challenges to the NCAA’s rules, the association pivoted to a hyperlocal approach. The current model creates a patchwork of standards around the country, something college sports leaders insisted would be untenable.

Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby earlier this week told ESPN the NCAA’s NIL solution “was intended to prevent us from getting sued.”

Emmert conceded the high court’s ruling in the Alston case was a clarifying moment and should motivate college sports leaders to act on reforms.

“You can lean back and do nothing and then just wait and see what happens,” Emmert said. “Or you can say, `Look, we’re in it. This is a new era.’ We need to take advantage of it, pivot as much as we can toward the areas that I was just talking about and and embrace that change rather than fighting it.”

No. 3 TCU loses 31-28 in OT to K-State in Big 12 title game

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Ty Zentner kicked a 31-yard field goal in overtime as 13th-ranked Kansas State beat No. 3 TCU 31-28 in the Big 12 championship game Saturday, leaving the Horned Frogs to wait another day to find out if they had already done enough to get into the four-team College Football Playoff.

The Wildcats set up the winning field goal after TCU (12-1) had the opening possession of overtime and Kendre Miller was stopped short on consecutive plays from inside the 1.

Deuce Vaughn ran for 130 yards and a touchdown and Will Howard threw two TDs for the Wildcats (10-3, No. 10 CFP), who six weeks earlier had jumped out to a 28-10 lead early in the second quarter before TCU scored the game’s last 28 points.

That was one of five games the Horned Frogs (12-1, No. 3 CFP) won when trailing after halftime. But they couldn’t do it again with the chance to guarantee being the first Big 12 team other than Oklahoma to make the playoff.

TCU, the first Big 12 team to complete a regular season undefeated since Texas in 2009, could still get into the playoff. While their case was helped when fourth-ranked Southern California (11-2) lost 47-24 to Utah in the Pac-12 championship game Friday night, the Frogs now have to wait until the final CFP rankings come out Sunday.

Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark said before the game that TCU, with first-year coach Sonny Dykes, already deserved to be in the playoff.

“You look at their strength of schedule. You think about how they’ve performed all year long,” Yormark said. “I think regardless, they should be in, for sure.”

No. 4 USC falls to Utah in Pac-12 Championship, damaging playoff hopes

Utah vs. USC
USA Today
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LAS VEGAS — No. 12 Utah pounded a limping, bloodied Caleb Williams and roared past No. 4 Southern California 47-24 on Friday night to win the Pac-12 Championship and put USC’s College Football Playoff hopes in doubt.

The loss by the Trojans (11-2) could open the way for Ohio State (11-1) to take their spot in the playoffs. USC is fourth in the CFP rankings, the Buckeyes are one step behind.

Ohio State had to be Utah’s biggest fan. The Buckeyes move up in playoff consideration, with 12-0 Michigan at No. 2 with the Big Ten championship game on Saturday, that would give the Big Ten conference two playoff teams for the first time. It also would extend the Pac-12′s playoff drought — Washington in 2017 is the last team from that conference to make the playoffs.

Utah (10-3) is heading to the Rose Bowl, but the Utes already were going there regardless of the outcome of the title game. They are responsible for USC’s only losses, having edged the Trojans 43-42 on Oct. 15 in Salt Lake City.

The Utes rolled up 533 yards of offense in the rematch, and Cam Rising passed for 310 yards and three touchdowns.

Williams threw for 363 yards and three TDs. He entered the game as the leading Heisman Trophy candidate, but wasn’t the same after getting injured in the first quarter.

The Trojans looked as if they were going to run away with the game, taking a 17-3 lead early in the second quarter behind some stellar play by Williams.

He appeared to hurt his left knee or leg in the first quarter on a 59-yard run in which he took a big hit at the end, and he suffered a bad cut on the pinky finger of his throwing hand. He spent most of the game limping, and wasn’t the same after a sterling first quarter in which the Trojans outgained Utah in total yards 194-70, and Williams had both touchdown passes.

After USC failed to pick up a fourth-and-8 from Utah’s 37-yard line, the Utes scored two touchdowns in the final 3:55 of the first half, and suddenly the game was tied at 17. Instead of a rout, the game was beginning to look like the shootout the Utes won in October.

The game took on that tone at times in the second half, but USC had no answer for how to slow down Utah, which outscored the Trojans 44-7 in overcoming that two-touchdown deficit.

ATTENDANCE RECORD

A announced sellout crowd of 61,195 made this the largest for a neutral-site Pac-12 Championship. It beat the previous record of 58,476 fans. who watched Southern California-Stanford in Santa Clara, California, in 2015.