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April 1, 2011 - NCAA Needs More Control Over the Bowl System

The New York Times published an article about the need for the NCAA to have greater control over the Division I football bowl system in order to reduce inappropriate expenses by the non-profit organizations which direct the postseason games. The article noted a recent investigation by the Times in to the Fiesta Bowl, which detailed financial improprieties of John Junker, the bowl’s chief executive.

The discussion over whether or not the NCAA can take over the operations of football bowl games is problematic because it would require a change from the current Bowl Championship Series (BCS) structure and would change the distribution of revenues for football.  While the revenue from the NCAA men’s Division I basketball tournament is liberally distributed across all of Division I, BCS money is largely divided among the six major conferences whose regular season champions receive an automatic berth to BCS bowl games.

“The bowls ought to be put under the control of the NCAA,” said William E. Kirwan, the chancellor of Maryland’s university system and co-chairman of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, which discusses and sometimes makes recommendations on the major issues of college sports.

“One way to accomplish that is to go to a playoff and let it be an NCAA championship. That would be one way of breaking the back of the BCS. I’ve never been in favor of a playoff, but given what I see going on, I think it’s time to press that issue.”

However, the Times reported NCAA president Mark Emmert was lukewarm to the idea that the NCAA should take control of the bowls. "The fact that this has to be fixed is not debatable. It calls into question the integrity of that particular bowl and it’s very dramatic and received a lot of attention. But I don’t think that it’s accurate to assume from that one experience that the bowl system is broken, that the other bowls lack integrity and they have similar types of behavior going on. We don’t have evidence of that. To use the Fiesta Bowl as an example to say we need to completely change our approach to bowl games, I’m not sure makes sense."

“I think that the current situation, and some of the concerns about the Fiesta Bowl and whether that was an isolated event or whether it’s a symptom of a larger issue, are questions that really need to be scrutinized,” said Amy Perko, the executive director of the Knight Commission.

“I think there needs to be a meeting fairly soon between the six BCS conferences and the NCAA leadership about what are the rules and regulations for conducting postseason bowl games, starting now,” said Edward Ray, president of Oregon State University. “This happened once. How do you know it hasn’t happened twice? How do you know it isn’t going to happen again?”