Sept. 1, 2004
More from Vitale: ESPN25 Q&A (Part 1)
I participated in an interview with ESPN's Rece Davis (and college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit) to discuss several topics involving the future of college athletics in conjunction with the ongoing ESPN25 series celebrating ESPN's 25th anniversary on Sept. 7. Below is Part 2:
Q: As the money continues to flow in from TV and marketing, will college presidents be able to grow sports over the next 25 years or will they step in to de-emphasize athletics?
VITALE -- I don't think they are going to de-emphasize it at all. I think as long as you have the unbelievable dollars generated coming in from TV and the marketing of the various programs and the tournaments and the BCS and the NCAA Tournament, I don't think there is going to be any de-emphasis of college sports.
The coaches are going to be doing a better job of evaluating potential student-athletes that they bring to their campuses, especially under the plan that exists now under executive director Dr. Brand and what he's trying to generate as far as improving the graduation rates. But let us never forget to give a kid the opportunity to fulfill his dreams and goals.
As long as you have the unbelievable dollars generated coming in from TV ... I don't think there is going to be any de-emphasis of college sports.
There are many youngsters out there without an opportunity to go to college; they never would be able to break bread with some very important people that could maybe change their lives in an important and positive way. I don't ever, ever want to see that not exist.
It's a fact that it takes many normal students five students to graduate, so why should the student-athlete be treated any differently? So I think that the five-year concept is not a bad concept ... but I really think there will be no de-emphasis. If anything, I think you're going to see more of an emphasis on what's happening. But I do think that academics are going to play a bigger role because of the scrutiny [and] the visibility ... of the different graduation rates causing humiliation to certain schools.
Hey, with ESPN's SportsCenter and all the other avenues that publicize this, if you're a coach, you'd be wise, baby, to recruit people like Mr. Herbstreit and Mr. David Robinson and Grant Hill and realize that these kinds of people can take you to the winner's circle in many ways.
Q: Do you think college football will have a playoff system similar to the NCAA Tournament or will the BCS remain in place?
VITALE -- Are you serious, having a computer determine a national champ! Telling the kids as Southern Cal that they couldn't play for the national title and then they've got to share it! Hey, in basketball we have a legitimate champ.
Can you imagine in basketball if we had to rely on a computer? The Dukies right now would have all kind of banners and things flying down there. But you know what? The kids in Connecticut got a chance to earn it on the hardwood.
I think in 25 years, when they see the dollars that can be generated, they'll see the unbelievable interest in television, people clamoring for it, people in the media clamoring for it. ... And I don't want to hear about missing class time because they aren't missing time in January. Many of them don't start school until the middle of January.
Let the kids earn it on the football field!
The bottom line is, let the kids earn it on the football field! And I believe that will become a reality. I can't even fathom what it was like to look at the kids at Southern Cal as a coach and say, "You're not playing in the game that they are proclaiming to be the national-championship game." The BCS has come a long way. It has done a great job at getting better and better, but it still has to go that one extra step. And that one extra step is to take the four best teams after the bowl games and have a playoff.
Let's face reality, man ... they've got to take all of the teams after the bowl games, evaluate them and come up with a football Final Four. After a one- or two-week party, then you have a legitimate national champion that can raise that trophy and say, "We're national champs!" Not some computer by some guy who never put on a helmet in his life determining who's the national champ. Give me a break!
Q: According to a recent NCAA study, two-thirds of male college athletes and half of their female counterparts admit that they gamble. One in five males and about 6 percent of females admit to betting on college sports and more than 2 percent of college football and basketball players say that they have been approached about affecting the outcome of a game. Take your pick: Over the next 25 years, will gambling continue to become a problem in college sports or will it be held in check?
VITALE -- It is something that concerns me, but I think it will be held in check. It concerns me because you don't want to see a major, major scandal like years ago in the '50s and '60s.
The bottom line is, I really believe that Bill Saum, who doesn't have a big staff in terms of handling the gambling section of the NCAA, is doing a phenomenal job. I'll tell you why: One time I was on a radio talk show. I have no idea who their sponsors are. And I get a phone call ... "Hey, Dickie V. You've got to do us a favor. We don't want you on these shows that are sponsored by these gambling ads." And I said, "I didn't know about that." But I did know that Bill Saum is doing his homework.
I also know that coaches bring in guys from the FBI to sit and talk to their players. Then it gets down to character. It gets down to the kind of people you recruit. Are they going to be shady? Are they going to go for the quick dollar, the quick hit? Are they people that could look in the mirror and simply say, "We're going to do things the right way and report to our people if anybody approaches us in any way, shape or form"?
It gets down to character. It gets down to the kind of people you recruit.
I mean, gambling is taking place ... there's no doubt about it. But I just hope and pray, and I really believe this, I think its really going to be controlled by our people in the NCAA because, again, that magical word that has hit us in the 2000s: scrutiny. And that's analyzing every little thing that exists.
And it gets back again to the student-athlete that you recruit. He better be a quality person that's doing things the right way, because the coach certainly is going to be held accountable. A coach has to be accountable for the people he brings into the program.
Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in December 1979. Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.