August 19, 2003
Phone: (504) 865-5714
At the invitation of President Scott Cowen, 36 presidents representing non-Bowl Championship Series schools conducted a mega-teleconference last month to discuss pressing issues involving Division I intercollegiate football.
NCAA president Myles Brand also participated in the conference. Cowen, who initiated the idea for the July 22 conference, said the presidents unanimously agreed to work together in order to ensure greater access and equity into college football's postseason play, higher academic standards for student-athletes and lower operating costs for intercollegiate athletics.
In doing so, the participants formed the Presidential Coalition for Athletics Reform.
The coalition represents 44 of the 52 universities not included in the Bowl Championship Series alliance, the exclusive group of universities who divvy up the lion's share of postseason football revenues. According to Cowen, non-alliance schools receive only 5 percent of the revenue generated by the big bowls.
"The timing is excellent for this to happen," added Cowen, noting that the Bowl Championship Series contract ends in 2005. Cowen also noted encouragement he has received from new NCAA president Brand and a growing interest by the general public in the issue.
The next step for the coalition is to form an executive committee, comprised of six presidents, six athletics directors and the five commissioners of NCAA conferences represented by the coalition, including C-USA, Big West, Mid-American, Mountain West, Sun Belt and Western Athletic conferences. The committee will focus on finding ways to provide greater access to college football postseason play, increase parity among Division I-A programs and encourage the NCAA to reconsider its new Division I-A membership criteria. The committee also will prepare for a Sept. 8 meeting with Bowl Championship Series presidents and commissioners in Chicago.
"For that meeting to be productive, we think it's very important that we develop a jointly agreed-upon agenda for the meeting and set up topics, that it's a two-way conversation, and that we come to the discussion with an open mind," said Cowen, who added that he had been in touch with six Bowl Championship Series presidents who had "suggested that this is a very rich and appropriate topic."
Preparations also are in the works for the National Symposium on Athletics, to be hosted by Tulane and held in New Orleans on Nov. 11. All Division I presidents and commissioners will be invited. The conference will include a debate between a Bowl Championship Series president and commissioner, and a president and conference commissioner from the Presidential Coalition for Athletics Reform. Saying that he would prefer to work with Bowl Championship Series schools in "collegial and cooperative ways," Cowen would not rule out using "more drastic options."
"Our preference is that the BCS go away completely," said Cowen. "We should have another playoff system like we have in every other NCAA-sponsored sport. There is not a level playing field in football. We are not looking for a handout. We are looking for access."
Kermit Hall, the president of Utah State University who joined Cowen and two other presidents in a closed-circuit press conference with national reporters, said he believed the coalition will be creative in its endeavors to find a remedy.
"There are a variety of ways to address the issues that are being presented here, beyond having one additional conference or an additional team involved in the BCS bowls," said Hall. "I think we will have a good deal of willingness to innovate on the part of the non-BCS presidents."
For a complete transcript of the press conference that followed the presidents' meeting and a review of the national press coverage from the event, or for more information on the Presidential Coalition for Athletics Reform, go to http://coalition.tulane.edu.
Nick Marinello can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000 email@example.com