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Malcolm Gillis on collegiate athletics

Texas Monthly has an article on Rice University President Malcolm Gillis (requires free registration) in which he shares his thoughts on the state of college athletics and how a school like Rice fits in. A few excerpts to whet your appetite:

MALCOLM GILLIS, THE PRESIDENT of Rice University, likes to tell the story of the football player who was being recruited by Rice and another Texas university of, shall we say, less intellectual rigor. The coach of the other school asked the prospect about his scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test. “Fifteen-fifty” was the answer—a breathtakingly high score that is close to the maximum score of 1600. There was a moment of stunned silence, and then the coach said, “Hell, son, you could get into school here twice for that.”


There are three issues that Gillis and other reformers would like to see addressed to slow the movement toward professionalization: academic reform, reduced spending (especially for multimillion-dollar coaching salaries), and less commercialization of athletics (for example, banning the display of corporate logos on uniforms). These were the principal recommendations of the Knight Foundation Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, which issued two reports a decade apart, in 1991 and 2001, producing much publicity but little action.


“There are two scenarios for the future,” Gillis told me. “Scenario number one is increasing commercialization until, over a period of ten to fifteen years, the teams in the big conferences will be semi-professional, with athletes getting paid. Scenario number two is that presidents and boards come to their senses and institute some reforms.” He paused for a moment, and then he said, “Do you know how much I am willing to bet that never happens?”

Gillis and Rice have joined a coalition of non-BCS schools to lobby for change in how college football operates. I wish them well.

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