Big upset: NCAA starts to make a bit of sense

The NCAA has banned out-of-state satellite football camps popularized by Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh.

The more bowl games the merrier for me. Nothing better on a December weeknight than a good Akron-Utah State tussle in the Famous Potato Bowl. What, 41 bowl games too many? Just because a few participants have losing records? How about 60 bowl games, including one in Key West pitting a winless Sun Belt Conference team against a high school powerhouse?

And satellite football camps are getting a bad name. College basketball teams enjoy tournaments in such blogger-approved tourist destinations as Hawaii, the Virgin Islands and Charleston. Baseball teams from the Northeast and Midwest routinely flock South for early season games. So why can’t Big Ten football teams have satellite camps in Satellite Beach, Fla., while SEC and ACC teams practice for a week in Maui or the Bahamas.

But the NCAA did the right thing.

In rare moves of common sense and hopefully signaling a trend, the ruling body of college athletics has placed a moratorium on adding new bowl games and banned the concept of out-of-state satellite camps popularized by Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh.

“In my America, you’re allowed to cross state borders,” Harbaugh said last summer amid sneers from SEC and ACC coaches. “That’s the America I know.”

In traditional America, Boise State practices are confined to Boise.

The much-maligned NCAA realizes restraint on both bowling for dollars and satellite launching is more than prudent. NASCAR and the pro golf and tennis tours have seen oversaturation erode product credibility.

To have the NCAA say “no” to something feels like the organization is in the mood for some real, old-school leadership after a few decades of sleeping at the wheel of a college sports world gone mad. Charleston’s would-be Medal of Honor Bowl might even be better off waiting for fragile bowl games in other cities to fade away.

Now let’s see if the NCAA is really serious about making college athletics better.

A few more overdue NCAA moves:

A serious approach to concussion monitoring and prevention, including collaborative data collection from conferences and schools. The NFL, constantly chastised for its slow concussion policy, is way ahead of college football.

Same thing with painkillers, still unmonitored even after a 2009 Post and Courier series revealed rampant use within college football generally and South Carolina specifically.

A major penalty for North Carolina basketball where serious academic fraud went on from 1993-2011. While NCAA President Mark Emmert says a resolution is imminent, the hammer would have come down sooner on most any other school.

A major penalty for Louisville basketball if allegations of on-campus sex parties for recruits have been confirmed, as widely reported.

But no more penalties that ruin college experiences for athletes not involved in transgressions. Follow the money and take it. Instead of banning a 2016 team for what an assistant coach did in 2012, apply harsh show-cause and financial penalties for the assistant coach, head coach and schools. Slam wallets, not players and coaches’ wives will lead the charge for reform.

Don’t be afraid to mess with King Football. Sure, college (and high school) football generates cash flow that sustains much of the rest of red ink-stained athletic departments, but 85 scholarships are too many. Cut back to 80 and welcome a few more walk-ons.

Don’t slip back on academic standards at the college level. And encourage states to hold or demand higher high school standards so there are fewer messes to clean up with armies of tutors working with student-athletes who might be better off with a junior college boost. Slipping backward, the South Carolina Board of Education this week exchanged a seven-point grading scale for a 10-point scale, partly to allow more students to qualify for athletic scholarships.

Hopefully, the apparently smarter NCAA will keep making sense from here to the inaugural Medal of Honor Bowl.

Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff