LSU chancellor to be panelist at conference

LSU Chancellor Michael Martin is playing a key role in an upcoming national conference to discuss ongoing problems with NCAA violations, athletic conference realignments, the lessening of the “student” in student-athlete and much more.

Martin is one of three guest panelists featured in the Oct. 24 Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics meeting with former LSU chancellor and current NCAA President Mark Emmert in Washington, D.C.

Martin said Wednesday in an interview that he was asked because he represents one of the nation’s largest athletic departments at LSU, and because he came from one of the smallest Football Bowl Subdivision programs at New Mexico State University before joining LSU.

Martin said he sees the addition of Texas A&M to the Southeastern Conference as the restoration of a natural rivalry with LSU, even if it means LSU will no longer play Florida every year in football.

As for the talk of Missouri becoming the SEC’s 14th member, Martin can “safely say” the college would be a good fit as a land-grant university near a large media market that would add prestige as an Association of American Universities member.

But Martin said there is no rush toward further growth as a “super conference,” especially because every decision has been “reactive” instead of based on a proper vision.

“In some ways the SEC is in the driver’s seat, but we’re not necessarily comfortable, because we’re not sure where we’re driving,” Martin said.

Martin said he believes stopping at 14 SEC teams is appropriate, rather than expanding to 16.

“I don’t see Texas following Texas A&M. I don’t see Oklahoma going anywhere without Oklahoma State,” he said.

The hope is Emmert will help shape an “armistice,” Martin said, to allow college officials to plan more strategically.

He also expects the conference to focus on finding remedies to the spate of major NCAA violations in recruiting and players receiving improper benefits, the lack of focus on academics for the student-athlete and the out-of-control spending on college athletics, Martin said.

LSU has one of the few self-sustaining athletic programs financially, Martin said. But far too many public dollars are “subsidizing” athletics nationwide as spending and coaches salaries skyrocket, he said.

Too many student-athletes do not fit the academic profile of the colleges they attend and, “therefore, are being exploited,” Martin said.

The Knight Commission was formed in 1989 in response to years of highly visible scandals in college sports.

He said scandals have recently popped up at schools, such as Ohio State, the University of Miami and Boise State, among others.

Of course, the NCAA accepted LSU’s self-imposed penalties for “major violations” this summer involving a former assistant coach and junior college transfer player who never entered a game. The situation was “embarrassing,” Martin said.

But Martin argued, “LSU was more a victim of errors of omission than commission,” reiterating LSU’s stance that former assistant coach D.J. McCarthy lied to the university about the violations.

As for other key issues, Martin is not supporting a college football playoff. But, he said, the growth into four or five “super conferences” could evolve into an unofficial playoff system.

Martin said he does not, at this time, support paying athletes like football and basketball players.

Those on full scholarships already receive close to the “total cost of attendance,” Martin said.

LSU’s total in-state tuition and fees are $6,350 a year, but the total cost of attendance is estimated at about $23,000 when factoring in housing, books, meals, travel and other expenses. The total amount an in-state LSU football player receives on average is $21,000 a year to cover such expenses.

However, Martin said he would push to allow for universities to offer more full scholarships in baseball. Most LSU baseball players attend on partial scholarships, he said.

The Knight Commission event will be led by Chairman Brit Kirwan, the chancellor of the University of Maryland System, and SMU President R. Gerald Turner.

The other two panelists with Martin are Boise State President Robert Kustra and University of North Carolina President Tom Ross.