GREENSBORO, N.C. — Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner John Swofford said Monday college athletics need a major overhaul, that tweaking the status quo isn’t going to get it done.
“Over the years what’s happened is you try to put in a rule that keeps those that would cheat from cheating, and you end up trying to close every little loophole,” Swofford told The Associated Press on Monday. “I think we need to be addressing the felons, if you will, as opposed to the jaywalkers and get ourselves out of this maze of rules that are unenforceable.
“Although well-intended, I’m not sure whether somebody got a text on a day they weren’t supposed to get a text is a huge problem in reality.”
A quarter of Swofford’s ACC schools are mired in NCAA troubles.
The commissioner said league officials have talked with Miami, where a former booster claims he provided cash, gifts and other improper benefits to athletes over an eight-year period. North Carolina has spent the past year coping with an NCAA probe of improper benefits and academic misconduct. Georgia Tech recently was forced to give back its 2009 ACC football championship trophy because of rules violations.
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“The last thing I want to see in our league are NCAA problems,” Swofford said. “So yes, whether it’s one or two or three, anytime they’re there, it’s disappointing.”
Miami is reviewing the eligibility of 15 players as part of its probe. Last season’s investigation at North Carolina forced 14 players to miss at least one game and seven to sit the entire year.
“When we have any particular school that has a significant NCAA issue, it’s disturbing and we take it very seriously and expect the institutions to — which they do,” Swofford said. “Certainly it’s something that’s not who we are nor do we want it to become who we are.”
Swofford said he is confident people at ACC schools will “get at the truth and straighten it out when there’s a problem.”
He wouldn’t discuss specifics of the Miami case, but he took dead aim at a system that in his eyes is clearly in need of repair.
Swofford said there’s a need for college sports to better understand possible violations connected to “third-party involvement” — outside influences such as agents, runners or boosters. He also talked about improving the NCAA rule-enforcement process by making it swifter, more consistent and stern but fair.
He also said he’d support increasing the value of a student-athlete’s scholarship, though he wouldn’t support a proposal to directly pay student-athletes.
Swofford went on to say “you can’t necessarily legislate individual integrity and what people do, nor can you know everything that happens 24 hours a day.”
“I’m not sure we’ve done a great job of defining what success is in college athletics,” he said. “It’s not just winning. It’s not just the most money. Both of those things are important. To me, it’s really about being successful competitively while graduating athletes and doing it within the rules.
“It’s a pretty simple formula that’s not easily attainable, I suppose. At the same time, I think sometimes we’ve forgotten the context of where we’re operating, and that’s in really high-quality educational settings. And we need to act like it.”
Swofford also addressed reports that ACC schools Clemson and Florida State were possible realignment targets of the Southeastern Conference this month. He said leaders at every ACC school have told him they’re “committed to the league and we’re a stable group,” though he refused to say whether the league would consider expansion in future years.
The league expanded in 2004 to add Virginia Tech and Miami from the Big East, while Boston College followed the following year.
“We were very proactive going from nine (teams) to 12, and I think rightfully so,” he said. “I think that was important to position our league where it is today. … Generally speaking up to this point in time, our schools have stated that they’re happy with 12 and with the 12 that we are. But that’s a continuing conversation.”
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press
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