All you need to know about “Angels & Demons,” for the purposes of this post, is that the secret group that wants to destroy the Vatican is known as the Illuminati. This group wields its power in secret, making its way through the back channels of society to manipulate events in its favor.
Now I come to the athletic departments of major universities across the country. You see, there are similarities.
Athletic departments wield tons of power at their respective institutions. There’s good reason for that: More than any other part of a college or university, athletic departments are able to bring in tons of money through their football and basketball programs mostly.
Just ask Jim Calhoun.
The dirty little secret is, although they dabble in public funds just like the rest of a public station of higher learning (bear in mind none of this applies to private schools, which aren’t required to share anything because they don’t operate largely on public funds), athletic departments get away with disclosing almost nothing about what they actually do all the time.
How? FERPA. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
Athletic departments hide behind FERPA, which basically ensures a students’ right to privacy when it comes to their academics, to keep from publicly exposing anything from NCAA violations to flight expenses.
The Columbus Dispatch dove into this issue more deeply than I plan to do here (follow the link above), and it found that several schools redacted names, took forever to supply information, didn’t supply anything, tried to charge money for it or just ignored requests altogether.
The kicker: Everything the Dispatch requested should be available via the Freedom of Information Act because public institutions use taxpayer money.
So, the question is, what exactly are athletic departments across the country hiding?
In some cases, NCAA violations both minor and major. But mostly they just don’t want to share the information because they don’t have to. They can hide behind FERPA and nobody can do anything about it.
They use a law that’s 35-years old and has been twisted in a million different directions for convenience. Just ask the person who authored the bill, former Senator James Buckley:
“That’s not what we intended,” Buckley, 86, recently told The Dispatch in a rare interview. “The law needs to be revamped. Institutions are putting their own meaning into the law.”
Is the law dated? Yes. Are athletic programs disingenuous? Yes. But if there’s anything that screams to the core of what’s wrong with NCAA athletics, this is it.
Does it really come as a surprise?