John Dorso: Reflections On College Sports And Legislating For The New Year


In the last few weeks I have read some posts on SAB that I can’t help commenting on.

Fewer bills introduced in a legislative session was one of my goals during my time as House Majority Leader.  Rod St. Aubyn is correct in that a smaller legislature generates fewer bills.  You will also notice that the big dip came in 1993 and on. Another reason was by rule we moved up the bill introduction dead line.  Legislators have more time at the beginning of the session to think up what I called “their great idea”.  Things aren’t as hectic at the beginning and legislators have more time to get a bill drafted and go around finding other legislators to co-sponsor the “great idea”.  When we cut the time down for introduction we cut the bills down.  You can also check and find that I didn’t allow delayed bills to be introduced.  My reasoning was that delayed bills in most cases were late developing and weren’t really thought through.  They also didn’t allow for the same time for publication and public input as a bill that was introduced ahead of the deadline.  Delayed bills are much the same as congress passing bills that they haven’t read much less the general public.  I agree with one SAB commentators thought “the smaller the government the better”.

College athletics is a mess and getting worse.  I blame this on the virtual monopoly the NCAA has on all college level sports.  The athletes understand that, giving rise to their wanting to form unions.  You can’t really blame the players.  They are recruited as prized employees for programs that generate revenue.  You may ask about the sports that don’t make money i.e. women’s athletics?  If you have to provide by law those opportunities for women then you try to find the best athletes so the program has a chance of being successful from a monetary perspective.  The graduation rate of male athletes who play revenue producing sports at major universities is pretty abysmal.  If it weren’t for female athletes the overall rate would look much worse.  The NCAA says they monitor the educational qualifications of the athletes but almost everyone can tell you that in the Division I schools there are ways around the requirements.  The NCAA compliance people catch a few schools but they can’t keep an eye on the whole system so there are many student athletes who fall through the cracks.  That has all ready come out with the court issue over the unions.   For once I believe this is a national issue.  I think it is time for Congress to get involved.  The only people that can straighten this out are in Washington D.C.  The NCAA is a national billion dollar enterprise run by college and university presidents that benefits their institutions and plays to a national audience.  They even think they have the power to tell you what your school should have for a logo, mascot or team name.  Go “Fighting Sioux”.  I might be in the minority but I would welcome truly amateur athleletics.  We have enough professional teams to satisfy our thirst for that level of competition.

North Dakota’s budget may become a real problem this session.  As time wears on and the price of oil doesn’t improve measurably it will get even tougher.  After the first of the year I hope those responsible for drawing the blueprint for spending over the next two years don’t get wedded to anything.  If the funds are not going to be available they should do everything in their power to avoid having to use any of the set aside funds.  Nothing should be sacred in fact I believe the Republican legislative leaders, Appropriations Chairs and the Governor should sit down in January and set a list of priorities.  When and if they have to cut the Governor’s proposed budget they should have a broad agreement on what those priorities are.  As reality and projections become clearer the leaders should articulate to their respective caucuses where they would like to go.  This approach would give the members an opportunity to provide input and receive comments from the public.  Having the Republican Senate going one way well the House goes another won’t resolve the issue.  When all is said and done the governor needs to be on board.  I for one will be watching carefully to see how the Appropriations Committees react to the economic news as the session unfolds.   This is one of those times where if things come to pass as some of us fear the state will be well served by having one party being in control.  If they can’t find common ground my premise will be shot full of holes and they will jeopardize their majorities.  Back in the 80’s we didn’t have the luxury of one party control (the Senate and Governor were Democrat) and the state ended up with referrals over taxes to cover unwanted spending.

I hope everyone had a blessed Christmas.   Best wishes for the New Year.