National Collegiate Athletic Association
May 26, 1997
Guest editorial -- NHL needs to drop its Bylaw 12 crusade
BY BILL BEAGAN
In 1989, the NCAA wisely promulgated Bylaw 188.8.131.52.4.1 (Limitation on Restoration of Eligibility), which was designed to prohibit "professional" ice hockey players in the Canadian Major Junior Hockey League (CMJHL) from participating with impunity in NCAA Division I ice hockey.
In a letter dated November 8, 1996, Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) chair Michael Kasavana advised the NCAA Professional Sports Liaison Committee that "the CCHA has absolutely no interest in, or support for, the alteration or elimination of NCAA Bylaw 184.108.40.206.4.1." Dr. Kasavana, who is the faculty athletics representative at Michigan State University, implored the Professional Sports Liaison Committee to "discontinue any activity with the National Hockey League which may impact current legislation," and he correctly noted that NCAA Bylaw 220.127.116.11.4.1 "is sound and has been effective in preserving the competitive integrity and foundation of amateurism essential to the game of collegiate ice hockey."
The CMJHL is a "professional" hockey league as properly defined by NCAA Bylaw 18.104.22.168.4 (Major Junior A Ice Hockey). The reason the NHL desires the elimination or revision of Bylaws 22.214.171.124.4 and 126.96.36.199.4.1 is completely self-serving and ultimately would have the effect of creating a quasi-NHL farm system within the framework of NCAA Division I hockey. CMJHL players sign contracts, they have agents and are paid from the millions of dollars the CMJHL receives annually from the NHL for player development.
In the very near future, the NHL will resume its strategy of lobbying the Professional Sports Liaison Committee to expunge or revise NCAA Bylaws 188.8.131.52.4 and 184.108.40.206.4.1. The principal reason is that the NHL wants players funnelled through the CMJHL system, where the players are indoctrinated in the NHL culture.
CMJHL players annually play upward of 90 games. The playing rules governing the CMJHL basically are the same as in the NHL, where fighting is condoned and even
encouraged as a form of entertainment. As a fallback position to the foregoing -- and rather than risking the chance of losing a drafted CMJHL player who might otherwise fall between the NHL development cracks -- the NHL desires to recycle former CMJHL "professional" players and dispatch them to NCAA Division I programs with impunity.
Another reason the NHL would like the NCAA to repeal Bylaw 220.127.116.11.4.1 is that it could send certain CMJHL "professional" players directly to NCAA Division I programs. This would avoid the requirement to sign drafted CMJHL players to an NHL contract until such time as the NHL team can further evaluate their professional potential. Equally important to NHL teams is that by dispatching CMJHL-drafted players to NCAA Division I programs, they would effectively shelter and indefinitely avoid losing the NHL rights to the players and also postpone the payment of a hefty six-figure NHL signing bonus before the teams were convinced their drafted players could play in the NHL.
I disagree with the NHL's suggestion that the accommodation of CMJHL players is a "win-win" situation for the NCAA. This is not true! In spite of the fact that the NCAA is not in the business of developing professional athletes, college hockey players have made a dramatic impact in recent years. Presently 25 percent of all NHL players are former NCAA players.
If we were to change our bylaws and permit CMJHL professional players to indiscriminately parachute into Division I in terms of amending the one-year penalty rule, the slippery-slope effect undoubtedly would present itself. Players from other professional leagues would begin petitioning NCAA Division I institutions requesting the same consideration.
A court of competent jurisdiction would, in my opinion, clearly make a case in support for the unrestricted movement of any "professional" hockey player to join an NCAA Division I team if we repealed Bylaw 18.104.22.168.4. The manifestation of this situation would be that some Division I teams would align themselves with NHL teams and in effect place themselves in a position of being able to manufacture an NCAA championship hockey team composed of any number of "professional" players. Not only would this lead to an unfair competitive situation but, in my view, would precipitate the dismantling of NCAA Division I ice hockey as we know it today.
In 1990, the NHL offered NCAA Division I hockey development money. While the NHL stated at the time its offer was unconditional and that it had no ulterior motive, we questioned this Trojan Horse approach and were proven correct. The NHL subsequently stated that if we did not repeal NCAA Bylaw 22.214.171.124.4 that no development funds would be forthcoming. Development funds still have not been forthcoming, seven years later.
In a September 17, 1990, letter to the NHL, former Professional Sports Liaison Committee chair Charles Theokas requested the NHL to review some of the provisions of NCAA Bylaw 12.1.1, which, at the time, included the following requirements: (1) An individual may not receive pay in any form in the sport; (2) an individual may not sign a contract or commitment of any kind to play professional athletics; (3) an individual may not compete on any professional athletics team if he knows, or has reason to know, that the team is a professional athletics team (per Bylaw 126.96.36.199, now Bylaw 12.02.4), even if no pay or remuneration for expenses is received; (4) an individual may not enter into a professional draft or an agreement with an agent or other entity to negotiate a professional contract; (5) an individual may not receive expenses from an outside amateur sports team or organization in excess of actual travel and room-and-board expenses for practice and game competition; and (6) an individual may not receive actual and necessary expenses from a professional organization that is sponsoring a particular competition. To date, the NHL still has not addressed any of the foregoing Professional Sports Liaison Committee requirements.
In July 1995, the Professional Sports Liaison Committee asked that the issue relating to NCAA Bylaws 188.8.131.52.4 and 184.108.40.206.4.1 be referred to the American Hockey Coaches Association (AHCA). The issue subsequently was entertained by the AHCA at its 1996 convention and did not receive the requisite support. After the AHCA voted down the NHL's proposal, the NHL then advised the Professional Sports Liaison Committee (May 1996) that it would back off this issue until the winter of 1998.
It is frustrating and, frankly, offensive, to be exposed to the constant badgering by the NHL to change or revise an NCAA bylaw that is fundamentally sound and in the best interest of Division I hockey.
We urge the Professional Sports Liaison Committee to communicate to the NHL in unambiguous language that "no" means "no" and that the NHL should cease to request that the NCAA revisit this matter on an ongoing basis.
Bill Beagan is commissioner of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association.
Letters to the Editor -- Creatine stories should focus on mindset
I read with interest the article by Priscilla Clarkson on creatine supplementation (Sports Sciences Education Newsletter, April 28).
Recently, there has been a plethora of articles on creatine and other ergogenic aids that are the current "aids of choice." However, there is a glaring omission in all of the articles that attempt to explain the substances.
Research that is done into the biochemical analysis of creatine and other related substances is important, but just as important is the mindset that is created within young people, especially young men, that gets them involved in the substances in the first place. None of the authors currently writing about the effects of creatine have addressed this issue.
The problem, from a high-school athletics director's perspective, is that when we tell young men (and perhaps young women) that we want them to get bigger so that we can win more, they take that directive seriously.
In many cases, adolescents will take whatever is available. Short-term or long-term consequences are unimportant. If creatine is said to work to make one bigger, and it does work, then a certain portion of athletes will use it.
By the same token, when coaches implore athletes to get better by getting bigger, a number will take steroids to promote growth. The difference between creatine and steroids is easily understood by professionals in the field, but to adolescents intent on getting bigger, the difference is meaningless.
Thus, we have but another tragedy in the continuing saga of coaches and programs out of control, programs that are consumed with victories, no matter what the cost.
Robert E. Lehr - Director of Athletics - Southington High School - Southington, Connecticut
Distributing the wealth
Iowa, Oklahoma, Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania: Back and forth the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships move, from one wrestling-rich location to another.
I believe the time has come for wrestling to branch out and broaden its base of popularity. Wrestling programs across the country continue to battle valiantly the attrition that claimed so many programs in the Title IX era. Progress is being made.
However, as wrestling progresses, more attention needs to focus on growing the sport in areas with less wrestling tradition -- Florida, California, Oregon and Texas, among others.
Each year, hundreds -- if not thousands -- of participants flock to Florida to watch and participate in the Sunshine Tournament. Additionally, AAU and USA Wrestling hold tournaments in multiple regional venues. College wrestling should continue its proactive stance and capitalize on these events and similar ones held annually across the country. Parties interested in the continued success of collegiate wrestling should focus on taking the excitement of the national championships to other locations, regardless of whether the state supports a wrestling institution. This provides the proactive next step of making wrestling a truly national sport.
While I understand that money is the motivating factor behind holding the Division I Wrestling Championships in wrestling-rich locations, I believe it is time to invest resources in wrestling development. As a Kentucky native who has traveled to Iowa, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania to watch wrestling, I rest assured that the national tournament will be well-attended, regardless of location.
This allegiance represents one of the greatest strengths of the sport: True fans will watch it any time and any place!
Curtis R. Trimble - Volunteer Assistant Wrestling Coach - Princeton University
Opinions -- Different wrinkle offered on pay-for-play philosophy
University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa
"This may sound crazy, but sometimes I wonder if we should just say let the marketplace drive it. I wonder if you shouldn't just let some of the boosters go out there and pay them. You get your 25 players and I get my 25 and off we go....
"I'm absolutely for a college playoff, and I think we're going to have it sooner than a lot of people think. There is going to be a lot of pressure to have a playoff. I hope fans will continue to put pressure on school administrators and athletics directors.
"Financially, it has tremendous possibilities. Why can Division II and Division III have a playoff and we can't? What's the logic in that? There isn't any. The only logic is that we have to support the bowls. I think there's a way we could incorporate the major bowls in a postseason championship."
Alex Abrams, former political analyst for MTV News
"Schools like Brown University spend millions of dollars annually on intercollegiate athletics programs that, in most instances, lose money. At Brown, for example, whose moderately competitive teams chew up more than $3 million a year of the school's budget, the university will spend, during the next four years, the equivalent of what it would take for roughly one-quarter of its undergraduates to graduate debt-free.
"Looked at another way, savings from the elimination of sports teams could result in Brown's entire student population graduating 25 percent less in debt. (That's no small sum, considering that the average student now graduates owing between $10,000 and $12,000.)....
"The problem, however, goes beyond intercollegiate sports. Like Brown, many other universities today spend millions of dollars in additional funds on other parts of their athletics budgets, funds used for such things as junior varsity and intramural teams, as well as gymnasiums, weight rooms, Olympic-size pools, and even indoor tennis courts.
"It is spending in areas like these that raises a question that today's cash-strapped students and their parents badly need answered:
"Should American universities continue spending freely on sports programs that are at best only marginally related to a higher education?
"At the very least, most families would probably welcome some choice in the matter -- the opportunity, say, to choose an 'a la carte' education that would enable students to receive a basic, no-frills degree, and one that wouldn't require them, as part of their tuition, to subsidize the country-club lifestyle that few among us are in a position to afford.
"Why not, for example, ask that the small minority of students who actually participate in intercollegiate sports foot the bill? And if such programs are as important to school morale as their supporters would have us believe, then why not charge students for the privilege of viewing these events?
"The same approach could also be taken with regard to intramurals and other such informal recreational sports activities.
"If students want to play indoor tennis or basketball in the middle of a cold New England winter, then let them pay for it. Let them do what members of the postgraduate (read real) world do, and decide for themselves whether such costs are worthwhile.
"And if they should decide, as it seems reasonable they might, that a set of indoor tennis isn't worth the $75 an hour it would cost, universities like Brown should consider doing what every other private organization is forced to do when times are tough: cut back on services, close the pool, scrap the volleyball teams (yes, men's and women's), and get the message across to students that college isn't summer camp."
Danny Williamson, track and field coach
"It works both ways. In terms of participation, track and field is the second largest sport here and should receive its share. But in terms of money, we don't make any, we're just spending it. We're not like men's basketball, that has to go out and play money games and then that revenue goes all around the department. I could understand why they would want more of the pie."
Skip Bertman, baseball coach
"Is the offense too far ahead of the defense and pitching? Most coaches agree the answer is no, even if runs are up. But this year it seems like it's more than usual, which means it could be a trend, or cyclical. It's likely to do with a tight-wound baseball, the aluminum bats, lack of better pitching and strength of better hitting.
"Show me an increase that is dramatic for two or three years in a row, then I'll agree something is out of whack."
Ronald J. Maestri, athletics director
"Instead of, 'Is it still baseball?' the question you have to ask is, 'What does the fan want to see?' I don't think the game has suffered. We're as healthy as we've ever been in terms of the numbers coming out."