When NCAA president Myles Brand was a boy, he’d take the subway to Ebbets Field to watch one of his heroes, Jackie Robinson, play for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Robinson was major league baseball’s first African-American player.
“The persistence of the man to break through the color barrier was startling,” Brand said Monday night in the Stewart Theater on N.C. State's campus.
Brand's speech was part of N.C. State's Millennium Lecture series. The former Indiana University president is the first NCAA president with a background in academia rather than athletics administration.
His passion is strengthening the coupling of academics and athletics at U.S. educational institutions and beyond. Next week he will meet with the minister of education in China to explain how athletics can complement athletics as the Chinese seek to enhance their global status after hosting the Summer Olympics.
Brand told the N.C. State audience that athletics teaches life skills, engages the community on campus and beyond, and encourages social justice – as Robinson did before integration took place on a large scale in the United States.
“While sports didn’t do that alone, sports is an important part of social justice – and it ought to be,” Brand said.
Brand hit hot-button topics such as:
・Rapidly rising coaches’ salaries. He said antitrust laws prevent the NCAA from capping salaries, but is concerned. “I think universities have to ask some hard questions. At what point is it appropriate in higher education for certain salary levels?”
・A football playoff. “What counts the most (in football) is the regular season. . . .Why would anyone what to put that at rest and turn football into a tournament sport?”
・Stagnant hiring rates for females in athletics director positions. “That’s a very serious challenge. What the NCAA can do is provide professional development activities for women.”
Afterward, Brand met members of a crowd that included an estimated 400 N.C. State varsity athletes.
“It’s something that today they may not realize,” said N.C. State athletics director Lee Fowler, “but somewhere down the road it will be important that they had the head of the NCAA come speak to them.”