National Collegiate Athletic Association

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NATIONAL COLLEGIATE ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION (NCAA) began following a meeting of college presidents on 9 December 1905, called by the New York University chancellor Henry M. McCracken to alleviate the dangers of intercollegiate football. The presidents organized a national convention on 28 December attended by sixty-two colleges that formed the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States (IAA), chaired by Captain Palmer E. Pierce of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The IAA developed standards of conduct for members, conferences, and a rules committee to open up the game. In 1910, it renamed itself the NCAA to reflect its national scope, and added new rules, including those requiring seven men on the line of scrimmage, allowing forward passes from any point behind the line of scrimmage, and eliminating penalties for incompletions. By 1919, the NCAA had 170 members and supervised eleven sports. It staged its first championship in track and field in 1919.

The NCAA had serious jurisdictional disputes with the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) over playing rules (each had different rules for basketball until 1915), eligibility (the AAU forbade collegians from competing against non-AAU athletes), and especially international competition. This was never fully resolved until the federal government intervened with the Amateur Sports Act of 1978, taking power from the AAU and dividing it among the federations that governed Olympic sports.

The early NCAA could not alleviate the problems of big-time college sports, including commercialization, professionalization, and hypocrisy, amply revealed in the Carnegie Report of 1930. Football had become a huge spectator sport, with seven stadiums seating 70,000 fans, and athletes were subsidized by easy jobs and facile academic programs. Institutions maintained complete autonomy and the NCAA had little disciplinary power.

In 1939, because of growing concern over recruiting, gambling, and postseason bowl games, NCAA members voted overwhelmingly for a "purity code" affirming the principles of institutional responsibility, academic standards, financial aid controls, and recruiting restrictions. A new constitution authorized investigations of alleged violations and expulsions of rules violators. The 1948 "sanity code" permitted only institutionally supported aid based on need and permitted athletes to hold jobs. However, it was repealed in 1951, because members wanted to determine aid only on athletic ability.

In 1952, the NCAA took further steps toward becoming a cartel. It placed some colleges on probation, set up rules for postseason bowls, established its national headquarters in Kansas City, Missouri, hired Walter Byers as full-time executive director, and signed its first national football contract with the National Broadcasting Company for $1.1 million. But in 1981, when the television package with American Broadcasting Company (ABC) was worth $29 million, the Supreme Court struck down the package system as an antitrust violation, and this empowered individual colleges to negotiate their own rights. Nonetheless, in 1982 a combined package from ABC, the Columbia Broadcasting System, and Turner Broadcasting brought in $74.3 million. The NCAA rights to its basketball championship, first contested in 1939, became extremely lucrative. Television revenues from the "Final Four" basketball tournament tripled from $49 million in 1987 to $150 million in 1994, and then to nearly $220 million annually through 2002.

The NCAA's major issues at the beginning of the twenty-first century involved recruitment, retention, and graduation of athletes; gender-based inequities; drug use; and cost containment. The Presidents Commission, established in 1983 to promote reform, secured stricter penalties for institutional violations including the "death penalty" that closed Southern Methodist University's athletic program in 1985. The NCAA has curtailed booster activities, reduced athletic scholarships and coaching staffs, and shortened the recruiting season, and in 1986, it instituted Proposition 48, setting minimal test scores and high school grades for incoming freshmen athletes. The NCAA opposed Title IX (1972), which mandated women's equal access to athletic facilities and programs, fearing its negative impact on revenue-producing sports. Nonetheless, in 1982 it took over control of women's sport when the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women folded, unable to compete with the NCAA's prestige, wealth, and television exposure, and since then has taken major strides to promote gender equity.


Falla, Jack. The NCAA: The Voice of College Sports: A Diamond Anniversary History, 1906–1981. Mission, Kans.: NCAA, 1981.

Watterson, John Sayle. College Football: History, Spectacle, Controversy. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000.

Steven A.Riess

See alsoBaseball ; Basketball ; College Athletics ; Football ; Hockey ; Sports ; Swimming ; Track and Field .

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National Collegiate Athletic Association

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National Collegiate Athletic Association