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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Ellicott City, Md. Enlarge This Image Forest A SERIES of recent scandals involving players receiving money, cars and other improper benefits, along with violations by recruiters and sports agents, has debased the already tarnished reputation of college sports. Schools like the University of Miami, the University of North Carolina and the University of Southern California, to name just a few, have been in the news more for abusing the rules than for teaching their students. The National Collegiate Athletic Association is supposed to hold colleges and universities accountable, but it has been reluctant to police with any stringency the growing number of violations. The assumption that the N.C.A.A. can develop safeguards and mete out punishment for those who violate its rules is wishful thinking. The N.C.A.A. is simply not up to the task; college trustees need to take charge instead. In 1991, I introduced a bill in the House of Representatives aimed at reforming college athletics. My bill would have granted the N.C.A.A. an exemption from antitrust laws, which would allow it to constrain the extraordinary growth in athletic spending by schools. Under my proposal, the distribution of money from broadcast fees and other income would have been based not on winning or losing, but on the academic performance of the athletes, gender equity, and the breadth and diversity of the sports programs. The bill would have rewarded those schools promoting the values of higher education. My attempt at reform failed, and in the 20 years since, things have gotten worse. There is just too much money involved in the multibillion-dollar industry that is college athletics to expect the participants to police themselves. Bloated college sports budgets, with coaches who earn millions of dollars, often more than college presidents, have created a situation where the tail is wagging the dog, with the result that colleges are losing control over their own athletic programs. Moreover, once the N.C.A.A. does get around to punishing violations, the culprits have often moved on. To take one notorious example, the $4 million-a-year football coach at U.S.C., Pete Carroll, resigned in January 2010, just as the N.C.A.A. was investigating accusations that the former player Reggie Bush had accepted improper gifts from agents. Mr. Carroll was subsequently named head coach of the Seattle Seahawks with a five-year, $30 million-plus contract. By the time the N.C.A.A. announced sanctions against the U.S.C. football team, in June, he was safely gone. Universities take pride in the success of their sports teams, but their reputations suffer when things go wrong. If they truly want to prevent scandals, they need to take control. And the people who can and must make this happen are the trustees and regents of these institutions, not the presidents, who are less equipped to stand up to the economic pressure from alumni and fans. Currently, many boards are too cozy with athletic departments; their members forget that their job is to protect the institution — not the coaches, not the boosters and not the fans. But if they want to avoid embarrassment and scandal, they need to be much more involved in maintaining standards. Many institutions have a laissez-faire attitude toward their athletic departments; given the profits from sports broadcasting and the fervor of alumni and fans, their reluctance to rein in athletic directors, coaches and players is understandable. But trustees and regents have both a legal and an ethical obligation to do what is right for their schools. If more colleges and universities would adopt the recommendations of the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, we’d see fewer violations of N.C.A.A. rules and of the law. Among the recommendations are these: regents should approve annual athletic budgets and significant capital expenditures; athletic departments should undergo annual audits by independent auditors; each school’s board should have a committee to monitor compliance with N.C.A.A. rules and student performance; and boards should approve compensation of coaches and directors. Some schools are beginning to recognize the wisdom of these proposals. Regents at Kansas State University now conduct annual audits of the athletic department. Regents at the University of Michigan sign off on athletic departments’ operating and capital budgets. Both the University of Colorado and Georgetown University have panels dedicated to athletic issues. The boards at Texas A&M University and the Universities of Wisconsin and Oklahoma must approve any changes in compensation for the highest-paid athletic personnel. These are encouraging changes. The N.C.A.A. should be more rigorous in keeping colleges compliant with its rules, but true accountability rests with individual boards. The schools would then not need to respond to the disgrace of violations and penalties, but could prevent the scandals in the first place.

DETROIT — It wasn’t long ago that car-sharing services like Zipcar were perceived as a threat to the sales volumes of traditional automakers.
Zipcar directed some marketing efforts at college students.

Wayne State University students were introduced to the Ford Focus during orientation activities in Detroit on Tuesday.
But the Ford Motor Company is taking the view that drivers who rent from Zipcar by the hour just might be potential customers down the road.
Ford and Zipcar are expected on Wednesday to announce an unusual partnership in which the Detroit automaker will supply its vehicles to Zipcar locations on 250 college and university campuses in the United States.
The two-year program will provide Zipcar with up to 1,000 Ford Focus sedans and Escape sport utility vehicles for students who prefer short-term vehicle rentals to the trouble and expense of owning their own car.

In addition to providing the cars, Ford will offer the first 100,000 university students who sign up for Zipcar a $10 discount on the network’s $30 annual membership fee. In addition, Ford has agreed to subsidize $1 of the hourly rental rate for the first one million hours of use on any of its vehicles. The typical Zipcar rental costs $8 to $9 an hour.

The program, which starts Thursday, is a significant step in the expansion of Zipcar, based in Cambridge, Mass., which went public with an initial stock offering early this year, and in August reported strong revenue and membership growth that exceeded Wall Street expectations.

Zipcar has been a fixture in urban areas like New York, Boston, San Francisco and Washington for several years, and has been gradually moving into smaller markets like Sacramento and Providence, R.I. Recently, it has been seeking to rapidly expand its presence on college campuses
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The alliance with Ford will raise Zipcar’s presence substantially in the student market — and get more American cars into Zipcar’s fleet. Nearly all of Zipcar’s current models are foreign nameplates like the Honda Civic, the Mini Cooper and Toyota Prius.

Currently, Zipcar has more than 600,000 members in the United States, Canada and Britain.
The impetus for the new partnership began two years ago at a transportation forum when William Clay Ford Jr., Ford’s executive chairman, met Scott Griffith, Zipcar’s chairman and chief executive.
In an interview, Mr. Ford said he had become interested in car-sharing networks as part of the long-term answer of how congested cities could solve transportation issues without simply adding more vehicles.
As an ardent environmentalist, he said he could appreciate how short-term car rentals could ease fuel consumption in cities already overcrowded with privately owned vehicles.

The auto industry has been pouring vehicles into regular rental car fleets operated by big companies like Hertz and Avis, for years.

Mr. Ford said that Zipcar offered an opportunity for the automaker to reach a new demographic of younger, college-age drivers who otherwise might not try a Ford product.
“We are looking at the future of transportation more holistically,” he said. “We shouldn’t be threatened by these different business models. We should embrace them.”

Zipcar owns more than 8,000 cars and offers its members more than 30 different models. But Mr. Griffith said the deal with Ford was a powerful endorsement of its market and its services.
“Having Bill Ford and the Ford Motor Company validating Zipcar as a business model and as an emerging transportation brand is a big step for us,” Mr. Griffith said.

Zipcar has bought 650 Ford cars and S.U.V.’s to start, and will start making them available for rental within two weeks.
The membership and rental subsidies offered by Ford could entice frugal college students to give the brand a try.
“The cheaper it is, the more I would be willing to use it,” said Tyler Harangozo of Windsor, Ontario, an incoming freshman at Wayne State University in Detroit.
Mr. Harangozo was among a crowd of Wayne State students looking over the Ford Focus during orientation activities on Tuesday.
He said he expected to commute to school by bus, but appreciated the option of renting a Zipcar for a few hours if needed.
“I can’t rely on public transit to get all around Detroit,” he said. “I’ll probably need a car once in a while.”
Zipcar memberships are available to anyone who has had a driver’s license for two years and a good driving record.
That makes it especially appealing for people under the age of 21, who often cannot qualify to rent a car from a traditional daily rental agency. At Zipcar, even a teenager can become a member.
Rental fees include insurance coverage, and Mr. Griffith said background checks had generally weeded out poor drivers from its membership rolls. “If you have a D.U.I. or high-speed driving violations, you won’t be able to drive one of our cars,” he said.

Ford sees the program as an inexpensive means to introduce younger drivers to its products, particularly the compact Ford Focus. The cars are equipped with Ford’s Sync infotainment and communications systems, and they are among the most fuel-efficient models in the company’s fleet.

“It’s a great way to reach these first-time drivers,” Mr. Ford said. “And the data shows that the No. 1 reason people leave Zipcar is to buy a vehicle, and that they are heavily influenced by what they have driven as a member.”

In the past, Mr. Ford said, his company did not have the right models to attract college-age drivers.
“The Focus is the right product at the right time to reach college kids,” he said. “We don’t know where car-sharing is headed, but Ford wants to be a part of it.”

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