Earlier in the day, I saw the news that Pacer/Fever co-owner Mel Simon had died, which of course raises more questions on the Fever’s future. Then in the afternoon, I saw more sad news from Indianapolis: NCAA president Myles Brand had passed away, too.
We can only hope Brand’s replacement is as committed as he was to women’s sports. Brand consistently spoke with power and eloquence in defense of Title IX. That included condemning the ridiculous e-mail survey that the Department of Education introduced in 2005 as a way for schools to measure compliance with Title IX.
In the eight years of the Bush Administration, the Department of Education tried very hard to go through the back door a couple of times to effectively weaken Title IX and make schools feel that they were on “better” legal ground if they were ever faced with a Title IX lawsuit.
The survey essentially sought to make women “prove” they were interested in sports while not making men do the same thing. Brand was very firm in saying this was absolutely counterproductive to the mission of athletic departments. And whenever university administrators used the tired old platitudes about how it was Title IX’s “fault” that something happened, Brand would always call them out for it.
Further, while I don’t know what or who, exactly, was the genesis of opening up the NCAA basketball selection process to coaches and media, it happened during Brand’s presidency. And this was a very smart move.
I think the mock-bracket exercise was initially done with the men in 2007. I was part of the first media group to do it for the women in 2008. By giving us first-hand experience with the data and methodology that the selection committee uses, it allowed us to better understand the process and have more empathy for the people who do it.
For too long, the NCAA seemed to treat the process like it was a big secret that needed to be protected, instead of realizing that making it transparent really helped improve the perception of the organization. Once people have gone through doing a mock bracket, they better grasp the difficulties the real bracket presents and can subsequently report on it with more insight and fairness to the committee.
When we did the mock bracket in February 2008, Brand came to a dinner we had the night before and chatted with us media members about our ideas on helping the women’s game grow. We all appreciated that he took the time, and I came away believing he was sincere in his concern and interest. He made himself accessible, and that’s a rare, admirable trait for a person in that position.