University Of Notre Dame President Reacts To College Basketball Recommendations
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
The FBI has spent years investigating corruption and bribery in college basketball. The FBI has arrested agents and coaches at prominent schools. And now the NCAA has issued its own set of recommended changes. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice chaired the commission that put out this new 60-page report.
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CONDOLEEZZA RICE: Our focus has been to strengthen the collegiate model, not to move toward one that brings aspects of professionalism into the game.
SHAPIRO: One of the commissioners is Father John Jenkins. He's president of the University of Notre Dame. Welcome.
JOHN JENKINS: Thanks, Ari. Great to be with you.
SHAPIRO: One of the biggest changes that your panel recommends is an end to an NBA rule known as one-and-done where college athletes play only their freshman year at school and then go pro. Explain why that system has caused such big problems.
JENKINS: What the NBA rule is, you can't hit the NBA right after high school. So what's the best athletes - we're talking about a small number, five to seven athletes will play for one year at a college and then move into the NBA. That's being only one year and moving on. The problem with it, it makes a mockery of our model, which is about students who are pursuing degrees playing sports. And so that's what we want to emphasize. And so we're hopeful that the NBA will adjust its rules so that if a player has the ability and interest to go directly in the NBA, they may. And we hope to get students who want to pursue degrees and play sports on our campuses.
SHAPIRO: You describe students as people who are pursuing degrees and also playing sports. The way Condoleezza Rice phrased it was, we have to put the college back in college athletics. Is it unrealistic to imagine that at this point this multibillion-dollar industry could somehow return to what it was a generation ago?
JENKINS: I don't know if we want to return to what it was, but we certainly want to preserve a model where these are sports for people who are pursuing degrees. And we should do everything possible on our end to make sure they have the opportunity to pursue those degrees. Now, there are other pro leagues, there are minor leagues, there are various level of professional leagues. If people want to start such leagues, they're free to do so. But the report's interest is in preserving a model where student athletes pursue degrees while playing their sports and, we hope, learn and grow through playing those sports.
SHAPIRO: When you have a system that generates so much money, and you don't have a paid salary going to the athletes, who in many ways are the ones responsible for generating that money, won't you always have some kind of system of incentives where there will be bribery, there will be corruption because so many people have such a vested interest in getting a piece of that?
JENKINS: I don't think so. Student athletes in men's basketball receive a full ride to attend their college. That's anywhere from $25,000 to $50,000 a year plus various benefits - food and travel and coaching. And so a college diploma is worth up to $1 million in the course of a person's lifetime. So it's one of the most valuable assets they can receive.
SHAPIRO: Do you think there is any future in which the NCAA, which works with clothing companies, agents, executives, huge universities and billions of dollars, can really truly root out the corruption that was the cause of this commission in the first place?
JENKINS: Look, corruption is present in many industries. And so these are steps we take to address the issues that needed to be addressed. And can we eliminate it entirely? No. You can't do that in any industry. But I think we can make substantial progress, and I think we will with this report.
SHAPIRO: Father John Jenkins, president of Notre Dame University, thanks so much for joining us.
JENKINS: Appreciate it, Ari. Thanks for the conversation. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.