David Robinson: Times And Finances Have Changed; So Should The NCAA

Robinson is part of a committee working to fix and improve college athletics

Tiki and Tierney
March 12, 2018 - 6:06 pm

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Hall of Famer and two-time NBA champion David Robinson dropped by CBS Sports Radio on Monday to discuss numerous topics, including his work to improve college athletics.

Robinson, Mike Montgomery (Stanford), John Thompson III (Georgetown), Gene Smith (Ohio State), Jeremy Foley (Florida) and Condoleezza Rice are working together to determine what’s wrong with college sports and how to fix them.

“A report will come out very soon,” Robinson said in studio on Tiki and Tierney. “We’ve basically just listened to all the constituents, whether it’s the agent or whether it’s the shoe companies, or whether it’s the coaches. We’ve heard from everyone – NBA, Players Association – (so we) can make an informed recommendation. Obviously we don’t work for the NCAA, but we’ve gotten a chance to kind of hear their challenges as well. This is a very successful sport. The NCAA Tournament is an amazing event, and I believe this dialogue should be phenomenal between students and schools. It should be a benefit to all. Right now, it doesn’t feel like that. The players feel like, ‘Hey, we’re getting taken advantage of.’ (We’re) trying to make that dialogue where, ‘Hey, this is a benefit to all. Let’s figure out how to make this thing really work.’”

The NCAA has lost credibility in recent years, as several scandals have rocked college sports. Robinson said that the ongoing FBI probe into the corruption of college basketball “complicates things for sure” but also underscores the importance of the committee’s work.

“These are issues that have been going on for a long time,” Robinson said. “They’re not new issues. Everybody knows that there have been challenges from here to there. The problem is we haven’t solved the bad actors in college sports. There’s been point shaving to all kinds of stuff happening forever. We’re just trying to make it so these kids have opportunity and that there’s some equity. Times change. Finances change. Everything has changed around the game. So should the NCAA.”

Tiki Barber and Brandon Tierney wonder if the NCAA actually wants things to change. Robinson believes it does.

“I believe there are some fundamental issues,” he said. “The investigations are incredibly difficult. The way the NCAA is set up, it makes it difficult if a school doesn’t cooperate or a coach doesn’t cooperate. They don’t really have any power to go in and say, ‘Give me the papers. Let me see what’s going on.’”

Indeed, the NCAA doesn’t exactly have subpoena power.

“They’re academic institutions,” Robinson said. “That’s not the way they’re set up. The world has changed. They need new solutions. They need to figure out, ‘How do we do a better job of encouraging these kids instead of chasing after them – and then when we find somebody, we nail them?’ That’s a terrible way to do things. It’s been a really fun experience just hearing all of these different sides and trying to figure out what can we do that’s really going to improve the relationship between the student (and school) and really giving a new meaning to the word student-athlete.

That word has evolved a great deal over the last century, over the last decade, and over the last year.

“That whole definition of amateurism, that’s an old definition,” Robinson said. “That doesn’t mean anything nowadays. It’s a different world. If you’re in high school and you’re an incredible musician, go to the symphony. Go at 17. Go at 19. Now, how do we deal with these opportunities that these kids have? There’s only a handful that can do it. For 99.9 percent of these kids, going to college is going to be there best option. . . . Right now, the thing that saddens me is so many kids go on campus and they think, ‘I want to get in and out of here as fast as possible.’ That’s the biggest mistake that 90 percent of these kids can make. It’s an unbelievable opportunity you have there. Let’s change that dialogue.”