January 21, 2013

Lack of support for Scholarly Colloquium a loss for NCAA

/ By R. Scott Kretchmar

I was sorry to hear that the NCAA is withdrawing support for the Scholarly Colloquium and the Journal of Intercollegiate Sport. I have to believe that the previous president of the NCAA, the late Myles Brand, would also be disappointed.

After all, this was his brain child, and when he asked if I would head up this effort, I was more than happy to do so.  Myles believed that good information based on good research and solid values should drive NCAA policy.  He was frankly perplexed by the fact that academics, by and large, avoided intercollegiate athletics as a topic for study. In fact, the first colloquium was devoted to that very issue and, based on the arguments made by several keynote presenters at that meeting, Myles took steps to make NCAA data more available to scholars.

I understand that the NCAA was concerned about weak attendance and the slow growth of the Journal. But I have to wonder if those were the factors that truly drove their decision. Comments were also made by NCAA staffers regarding the critical nature of some of the invited addresses over the past few years. My sense is that this is closer to the heart of the matter.

How interesting that, at a time when most agree that all is not well in Division I athletics, the NCAA has taken steps to avoid thoughtful criticism.

My own view is that intercollegiate athletics in general and the NCAA in particular need to become better partners in higher education. As all of us in colleges and universities know, we have to be held accountable with
regard to how well we promote the central values and primary purposes of higher education. Intercollegiate athletics should be no exception. Athletics should not hide from criticism, but learn from it.

So, this isn't, in my judgment, a happy day for those interested in conducting and sharing research on intercollegiate athletics. And it probably shouldn't be regarded as a happy day for the NCAA either.

R. Scott Kretchmar is a professor of kinesiology at Penn State. He was the founding president of the NCAA Scholarly Colloquium and served two terms as NCAA faculty representative for Penn State.