There is a saying that history often repeats itself. During its infant stages, the NCAA adopted a principle of institutional autonomy called the “Home Rule” principle. In other words, college sports agreed to act individually on regulating the enterprise and generally no national rules were implemented until the NCAA’s 1948 “Sanity Code,” which resulted in more centralization of rulemaking and a more powerful NCAA. In terms of present day, after NIL, and the Supreme Court Alston decision, the answer for college sports may very well look like a variation of Home Rule.
This was the genesis of LEAD1’s 14th episode of the “LEAD1 Angle with Tom McMillen,” released today, where LEAD1 CEO and President, McMillen, chatted with Andrew McGregor, college sports historian and professor of history at Dallas College. McGregor recently published an Op-ed in the Washington Post (link) about the parallels between Oklahoma and Texas moving to the SEC, relative to the history of Oklahoma’s long-standing fight against the NCAA’s role as the central authority in college athletics. In fact, Oklahoma was one of the first institutions to be put on probation when the NCAA first established regulatory authority over the enterprise in the mid twentieth century, and, Oklahoma challenged the NCAA’s former television monopoly, which eventually empowered the conferences to negotiate their own television contracts, leading to our current landscape today. In other words, the recent expansion of the SEC, and conferences taking more authority, is emblematic of the NCAA’s former Home Rule principle, or further deregulation of the NCAA.
During the episode, McMillen and McGregor further discuss that if the current version of Home Rule failed in the years ahead, it may be up to the Congress to restore the powers to a national organization to create the more even playing field, which has been so fundamental to college sports. Today’s version of Home Rule, for example, could create even further stratification between the resource rich and lesser resource schools, creating greater impetus for the Congress to possibly intervene. McMillen and McGregor also reimagine the intersection between athletics and academics, questioning whether college sports has become more of an entertainment enterprise, than an educational one. More on how history is repeating itself in college sports, including the possible status of student-athletes as employees, can be found in the episode.