DALLAS — California Chancellor Ira Michael Heyman opened the National Collegiate Athletic Assn.'s forum for debate on the proper role of athletics Monday with such astounding suggestions--abolishing athletic scholarships, bowl games and the NCAA basketball tournament--that the first question posed to him as he left the podium was: Are you serious?
Texas A&M Athletic Director and Football Coach Jackie Sherrill concluded that Heyman's "rhetoric" must have been satire.
But Heyman said that he was serious--sort of.
"I am serious in that I do think the way I was talking," Heyman said. "But I'm also realistic. I don't think the world is going to change that much. Those were very, very big changes."
Later, he added, "Many of the things I said were meant for shock value and provocation. I view this whole forum as a process and I don't know what the outcome will be."
Another primary speaker getting the 18-month forum under way on the first day of the special convention was Richard Warch, president of Lawrence University in Appleton, Wis., a Division III school. Warch offered: "Radical rethinking may move us to imagine solutions that will elude us if we only tinker with the system."
So, Warch said: "I would propose that the NCAA--after providing payment for a participating institution's direct costs--should mandate that all television, bowl and postseason play revenues be distributed among all NCAA member institutions on some enrollment-formula basis. Achieving the Final Four or receiving a bowl bid or earning a place in the NCAA playoffs ought to be reward enough. . . . Let us abolish the extrinsic rewards of huge financial bonuses and use the money to support the programs of all institutions that field athletic teams as a part of expression of their educational missions."
He, too, later confessed that although he saw merit in his proposal he expected the "huzzahs" from Division I representatives. Warch said: "I saw some of the first smiles I saw all afternoon when I made that comment. It had the desired provocative effect."
But there was some attention being given to realistic suggestions, and not all in the interest of cutbacks or "de-emphasis" to find the right balance for athletics and academics.
Oklahoma President Frank Horton included in his presentation: "It is hypocritical to deny students access to financial assistance programs available to other students because of their participation in athletics. It is ludicrous to expect a student-athlete to step off the playing field or tennis court without enough money to go to a movie or have a winter coat.
"By reinstating the opportunity to participate in other types of aid, colleges and universities could better address the financial dilemma facing many student-athletes. And, in the process, perhaps we could reduce the temptation--and incidence--of student-athletes accepting benefits that are outside NCAA rules."
In other words, let athletes keep the entire amount of federally financed Pell Grants if they qualify on the basis of need. Currently, there is an NCAA rule limiting how much of that money the athlete can keep.
Michigan football Coach Bo Schembechler, one of the six respondents to the primary speakers, also spoke on behalf of letting needy athletes keep their Pell Grant money. And he had a lot of other things to say, too.
Schembechler defended big-time football programs, saying that the athletic experience is valuable unto itself, that programs such as his at Michigan have very good graduation rates and that there are some good, honest programs among the big-time boys. He said, "Being successful does not mean being corrupt."
And, he said: "I think it's time we stop apologizing for athletics being the avenue for (college) admission for disadvantaged students. It's the best way, because these athletes will receive the best counseling and academic support."
As for a proposed cut in Division I scholarship from 95 to 90, Schembechler said: "If you do that, that means five more freshmen will be brought up untrained and unready."
He spoke against cutting assistant coaches because they are needed not only for teaching football but for counseling and supporting the athletes, and he argued that there is no need to be concerned that coaches are overpaid.
"Right now, I am one of the half-a-dozen coaches that are overpaid. But I came to Michigan for $21,000 and there was no TV show, no country club dues being paid. I never was able to save a dime until after I was 50. . . . There are probably a few presidents who are overpaid."
He concluded: "Sure, we want great athletics, but we don't want to do it at the expense of academics. . . . I don't believe many coaches around the country have done that.
"I'm for cost-cutting, if you have to, but I'm not for de-emphasis. Don't cut back on something that has meant so much to so many."
Schembechler was the only coach included in the program.