Mar 26th, 2021 |
6. Big Ten Secrets
In this episode, we look at the opaque world of university president decision-making in the context of the Big Ten’s deliberations in August 2020 regarding fall football. As in nearly all aspects of BigAmateurism’s business operations, nothing is as it is portrayed to the public.
When Power 5 conferences and schools were deciding whether to move forward with fall football, the Big Ten conference presidents discussed moving that conversation to the Big Ten conference portal—a private forum—where their communications would not be subject to public records laws. This suggestion appears to have originated with University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank. In response to public records requests from The Washington Post, Big Ten universities claimed that communications regarding fall football were off-limits to the public. The Post ran an article on March 5th, 2021 detailing the discussions among certain Big Ten presidents to move the conversation to the Big Ten Conference, Inc. private portal. In response to the article, Blank issued an “apology” for the “appearance” of her suggestion. Freedom of information advocates described the emails as an apparent attempt to evade public records laws “shocking”, “troubling”, and “wrong on the law.” Blank’s role in the suggestion to move the fall football decision-making process to a private forum is particularly relevant. Blank has been integral to the NCAA/Power 5 campaign in federal courts and Congress to achieve the Iron Throne of college sports regulation. Blank is now a member of the NCAA’s most powerful governing board—the NCAA Board of Governors. She also testified in 2018 as an NCAA witness at the trial of the Alston antitrust suit and also testified as an NCAA witness at the September 15th, 2020 Senate hearings (Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee) ostensibly on NIL “compensation.” The Post’s article raises important questions about transparency, the role of Power 5 presidents in the NCAA governance model, and the Power’s/NCAA’s claimed commitment to its basic principles. The Big Ten fall football deliberations also illustrate the obvious, inherent conflicts of interest among university decision-makers, particularly those such as Blank who wear multiple hats (president, conference board of directors, NCAA governing board, and ostensibly “independent” advocates for NCAA/Power 5 amateurism-based compensation limits).
Resources for this Episode:
“Big Ten presidents kept return-to school, football communications out of public eye”, The Washington Post, March 5th, 2020
“Football Has Long Been the Third Rail for College Leaders. It’s Even More Perilous Now”, The Chronicle of Higher Education, March 9th, 2020
“UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank says pay-for-play in college sports ‘not our mission’”, Wisconsin State Journal, December 15th, 2018
Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors, bigten.org
Big Ten Conference Inc. IRS Form 990 “Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax”, 2017
Rebecca Blank Written Testimony Before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (“Compensating College Athletes: Examining the Potential Impact on Athletes and Institutions”), September 15th, 2020
U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Full Committee Hearing (video) “Compensating College Athletes: Examining the Potential Impact on Athletes and Institutions”, September 15th, 2020