Inexplicably, in the roughly one month since University of Washington President Mark Emmert was named new head honcho of the NCAA, he has not reached out to me for advice.
Which will not stop me from offering some now about how to improve major college sports for the people who should matter most:
Those who play.
Yet let's start with what won't get fixed.
Big-time college sports rests atop a contradiction more gaping than the Grand Canyon. For the conferences and the universities, with their lucrative TV contracts and their millionaires' club of coaches, college athletics seems as commercial as Goldman Sachs.
However, the labor that makes all the revenue possible — major-conference football and men's basketball players — is wildly underpaid, satisfied with tuition, books, room, board etc. ...
The oft-proposed answer, "paying the players," would bring another set of problems. Big-time college sports, even at the most lucrative level, does not operate solely on capitalistic principles.
If it did, you'd fold every sports program that is not profitable. With few schools as exceptions, all you'd have left would be men's hoops and football.
The money made from the efforts of Tim Tebow and John Wall helps subsidize an array of other sports played by men and women — golf, tennis, baseball, softball, etc.
In a world with Title IX, there's no way to treat one group of players (those in profitable sports) differently from all the other athletes. It's hard to imagine any realistic scenario that would allow all college athletes in every sport to be paid.
So it's too late to realistically rework the underpinnings of big-time college sports to remove the great contradiction.
What Emmert can and should do is take some common-sense steps to make NCAA athletics more user-friendly for the students who make the show possible.
1. Make the duration of athletics scholarships four years. The adults in big-time college sports, the coaches and administrators, sign long-term contracts with hefty payouts that they receive if a school ends the deal before its term has expired.
Yet the "contracts" offered the college-aged players in the form of scholarships are one-year deals renewable annually.
If you are really trying to maintain even a semblance of educational pretense in major college athletics, make the scholarship agreement a four-year contract that can only be voided if a player flunks out of school or commits a significant violation of the law or of a campus honor code.
In the real world, coaches will still find ways to "run off" under-performing players. But the rules should at least try to offer the most possible protection to the students.
2. When coaches leave a school, make it easier for players who have signed with those coaches to move, too.
Yes, I know the conference commissioners, not the NCAA, oversee the national letter of intent program. But the NCAA ought to be able to exercise moral authority in this area.
First, there are high school players who sign national letters of intent with coaches who subsequently leave or are asked to leave before the player arrives on campus.
Players in those situations should be released from their letter of intent if they so desire.
As it is now, the letter is binding on the player unless the school grants a release. If the coach who signed a player is gone, that release should be automatic.
There's also a case to be made that veteran players already on college rosters should be able to transfer, too, without penalty if the coach who signs them leaves.
Coaches constantly break contracts without being asked to "sit out" a year. Should the players continue to be held to a higher standard?
3. Give major-college football players the same chance to play in a championship tournament that athletes in every other significant NCAA sport get.
Yes, I understand that the NCAA can not impose a football playoff unilaterally. But an NCAA president can use both his bully pulpit and his political influence to work toward one.
From past statements, Emmert has spoken favorably of a major-college football playoff.
If he sticks to his guns in his new post and helps pull that off, he'll end up the most popular sports bureaucrat of all time.