Yudof needs to be careful when he picks fights with NCAA

We athletic types get very nervous when we see academic types start talking about what to do with sports.
So with University President Mark Yudof talking about NCAA reform and Big Ten reform, it’s natural for a few ears to perk up.
For those of you who haven’t paid attention, Yudof is calling for major changes to be made in the way the NCAA runs things. The NCAA, Yudof says, is far too wrapped up in issues like athletes working and appropriate gifts to govern effectively.
“In general, they are so interested in a level playing field — making sure Minnesota doesn’t buy a slice of pizza for a football player,” Yudof said in yesterday’s Daily. “There is not enough concern with the issue of how do we make sure the student-athletes are succeeding both on and off the field.”
This is where the issue gets a little controversial. Yudof wants all freshmen to be ineligible to play their first year so they have time to adjust to life at college. Yudof is making one innnacurate assumption about student-athletes:That they all come to school for an education.
Idealistically, it’s not a bad idea. The problem is teams have become too reliant on young players. With college basketball, football, hockey and baseball players going to the NBA in a pretty constant stream, coaches have to rely on a steady stream of freshmen to supplement their lineups.
Can that be changed? Sure. The question is are other schools willing to be as idealistic as Yudof seems ready to be?
Don’t bet on it. Take Michigan for instance. The Wolverines are mired in a scandal with one of their men’s basketball players. A Michigan player allegedly received money from a booster. And Michigan has been far less anxious to clean house than Minnesota. Although, they are looking for an athletics director, Michigan hasn’t cleaned house with the higher-ups.
The message is clear: The Wolverines aren’t anxious to clean house or make amends of any kind. They’re not even investigating any further.
Thankfully, Minnesota has been more forthcoming with its reforms. The question left is can Yudof reform a system that often places athletics above academics?
Schools like Florida State aren’t going to be quick to jump on that wagon. Hey, Seminoles. You know that star freshman you just signed who’s going to help you beat the Gators? Yeah, he can’t start this year.
Good luck next year.
There’s no question Yudof’s goals are idealistic, and there’s nothing wrong with that. If not for idealism, there’d be designated hitters in baseball … bad example.
In a perfect world, they’d all be concerned with grades (not that most athletes aren’t). But Yudof would be wise to avoid being the Don Quixote-type of romantic idealist. The windmills in sports don’t take lightly to challenges to their authority.

Jim Schortemeyer is the sports editor and welcomes comments at [email protected]