Given the kind of guys who ran the NCAA before him, Myles Brand was a really different, interesting sort of man.
He first came to public awareness when he was the Indiana president who finally had to come to terms with Bob Knight. It can't have been a pleasant experience, but he dealt with it probably as well as anyone might have.
With the NCAA, he was essentially a reformist. On the one hand, he had great respect for the ideal of the student-athlete; on the other, he was deadly serious about the second half of the term and worked diligently to improve academic performance.
We all know that there are schools where the athletes are coddled and not really required to take school seriously, and that it's been going on forever, and there's a level of cynicism about the whole process. This summer, when John Wall reported that he finished summer school at Kentucky with a 4.0 average, our immediate, visceral response was, well, of course you did: you play basketball at Kentucky.
It wasn't really fair, any more than it's fair to assume that every football player at Oklahoma is academically incompetent, or to just assume that, say, LSU is particularly corrupt.
There's a John Wayne movie from the 1930s where he plays a football coach who scams to get ineligible players in (in the movie, his fictional team defeats Wallace Wade's Duke squad by the way).
So it's nothing new and nothing easily fixed.
The NCAA is a massively flawed organization; most of us can agree on that,
and it needs reforming in many areas.
Brand at least carried the banner for meaningful reform. We won't know where he could have gone had he not developed pancreatic cancer, which is a terrible disease, but we suspect he would have made a difference. His basic decency and his willingness to work with all sides will be greatly missed.
In a few days, people will begin to talk about where the association goes from here. Hard to say, but part of Brand's legacy will likely be that it can't go back to the good old days of yore. And if that's part of your legacy, you've made a sincere difference.
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