AUBURN, Ala. — Jay Jacobs didn’t lay out a road map for how to cure the ills of the NCAA.
All he knows is that changes need to be made — and the sooner, the better.
“We've got to get to some level of deregulation, and everybody's different,” Auburn’s athletic director said in a meeting with reporters on Thursday. “We can't treat all Division I schools as if they're all the same. It's not fair to everybody.”
Jacobs offered one example: He couldn’t comprehend why the Tigers aren’t allowed to provide their players with three training meals every day; under the current rules, only one meal per day is permitted. He was similarly flummoxed by the rule barring agents from talking to student-athletes who have displayed the requisite talent to play professionally.
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If other students are allowed to talk with future employers, Jacobs said athletes should be afforded that same opportunity.
“If I'm in chemical engineering and I've got an off-the-charts GPA and I'm a junior, I can assure you that there's some company that's pursuing me when I graduate,” he said. “But we're telling our student-athletes that are All-Americans that, during their junior year, they can't talk to anybody about their prospects of employment after their senior year.”
Of course, Jacobs spoke from a position of power, leading one of the few programs in the country that turns a profit every year. Auburn set a school record for revenue in 2012, hauling in $105.9 million, which ranked fifth among SEC teams (behind Alabama, Florida, Texas A&M and LSU, respectively) and 10th overall in Division I.
But with the gap between the haves and the have-nots widening every day, Jacobs said a “remedy” needs to be discovered immediately.
“I think we've got to get the right people in a room and come up with some remedy, because what we have right now just doesn't seem to work,” he said. “It's obvious it doesn't seem to work. I'm not sure what the remedy is. There have been a lot of things kicked around. We all have to take a thorough look at what we currently have and cast a vision as to where we need to go and find a way to get there.”
The NCAA is taking small steps toward addressing some of the criticisms Jacobs and others around college athletics — including SEC commissioner Mike Slive — have leveled in recent months. The governing body sent out a survey to athletic directors and college presidents, asking for input on how it can better serve its member institutions.
The NCAA also asked athletic directors and presidents to attend its annual convention in January.
“We've all got to work together,” Jacobs said. “We all have a vote, so whatever we have, we're a part of. Things have changed and we need to try to be as far as we can to our student-athletes regardless of where they are.”
The only way the NCAA will be able to solve its problems, Jacobs said, is if it takes a look in the mirror and asks tough questions regarding how its role has evolved.
"I think the landscape is changing,” Jacobs said. “We need to look at that. Are the rules best for the student-athlete and the institution? Are they archaic? I think we need to be open-minded enough to look at all those things. What we decided years ago — is that still OK today? Some of them may be. Some of them may not.”