Your Turn: Antitrust suggestion premature

Your Dec. 6 editorial criticized the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics’ proposal for overhauling NCAA Division I sports governance because we did not recommend an antitrust exemption to enable big-time sports programs like KU to cap college sports spending.

We agree too many dollars go to coaching salaries and gilded facilities in Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) football programs. But while the commission remains open to antitrust legislation, the Journal-World has put the cart before the horse.

The parameters of an antitrust exemption should not be settled until FBS football governance –which your editorial rightl y described as “untethered” in the COVID-19 pandemic — is better delineated. Runaway spending in FBS football, including coaching salaries, must be curbed and an antitrust exemption might be necessary. But that will require clear agreement among schools that play football.

The Commission has proposed a new, separate governing entity for FBS football in part for just this purpose: to determine how to contain football spending, while the NCAA would continue to govern basketball and 30-plus other men’s and women’s sports.

Enacting an antitrust exemption is a long shot — Congress can easily become the graveyard for reform. By contrast, university presidents can adopt our ambitious recommendations on their own, without government intervention.

Pinning hope of reform on an antitrust exemption risks making an elusive perfect the enemy of the greater good. Our proposal is a vital first step towards greater accountability for FBS football and preserving intercollegiate athletics as a public trust — goals we share with the editors.

— Carol Cartwright and Arne Duncan are co-chairs of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics. Cartwright is president emeritus of Kent State University and Bowling Green State University. Duncan is the former U.S. secretary of education.


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