Over the years, through stacks and stacks of legislation, the key word when dealing with the National Collegiate Athletic Association has been interpretation.
That is the case this week, as the nation's athletic administrators at member institutions weigh the latest communication from NCAA headquarters in Overland Park, Kan. Earlier this week, the NCAA announced a proposed formula for the initial distribution of money received from the $1 billion television contract for the men's basketball tournament.
The formula to spend the first $69.9 million from a seven-year, $1 billion television contract with CBS was designed to reward schools with broad-based programs -- schools that sponsor many sports and award many scholarships, according to NCAA executive director Dick Schultz.
Among some Maryland Division I athletic directors, the feeling was one of uncertainty.
"It's hard to figure out," said Ronald DeSouza of Coppin State. "First it was a cost-reduction program, then a new revenue-sharing program and membership proposals will come before the convention in January. It's this and that, and you don't know what's coming next. It's all based on economics. Right now, I believe we need some specific definitions."
Or, as Thomas Balistrere of Mount St. Mary's said, "The term 'broad-based' is in the eye of the beholder."
University of Maryland athletic director Andy Geiger is a supporter of the new revenue split.
Geiger praised the new system as being "a realistic way for the association of returning money to the [NCAA] membership in a more balanced way."
And Geiger was particularly pleased that the plan reduces (from $294,000 to $40,000) the money that schools will earn for each game they win in the postseason tournament.
Most officials said they saw nothing wrong with the big, successful schools getting more as long as their smaller schools received something. At least it would be a start, rather than the NCAA basketball tournament teams and their conferences whacking up all the TV proceeds.
"This looks like the best plan I've seen," said Charles Brown of the University of Maryland Baltimore County. "It will share the wealth with conferences and schools and encourage schools to spread their scholarships to all sports."
James Smith, acting athletic director at Loyola College, said: "It depends on how they define the term 'broad-based.' We believe we have a broad-based program for our students, considering the number of students and number of sports available, but how will someone else interpret it. At the moment, we are simply trying to sort it all out."
Leonard Braxton of Morgan State pointed out the discrepancies between the number of sports a school might fund and the amount of money it might receive back. "The big boys get the millions, and we [small schools] get put on the back burner tTC again. Maybe they ought to reverse that equation -- take from the rich and give to the poor."
At the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Hallie Gregory said: "Clearly, the larger schools have an advantage. It's David and Goliath. We're headed for a lot of proposals, and the smaller schools will take the hit."
At Maryland, the financial benefits will not be felt immediately. The men's basketball team, which is beginning a three-year probation, is banned from the NCAA tournament for two years. Geiger said it's unclear what amount the university will share from the Atlantic Coast Conference pot. "I don't know what is going to happen this particular year, because of our probation. It hasn't been decided," he said.
The Naval Academy finds itself in a different category, because what might be considered financial aid is a part of every Midshipman's appointment. The service academies do not have athletic scholarships per se, and as a result, Navy's Jack Lengyel said: "One of my concerns is how this distribution takes place with regard to scholarships. The Ivy League is in this position, too.
"The NCAA has made exceptions for the academies in the past because of the uniqueness of their situations. We definitely are committed to the philosophy, but we need some interpretations.
"For instance, I'm not pleased about the basketball pool. We are leaving one conference [the Colonial Athletic Association] for another [the Patriot League], but we have to leave our units [funds from the postseason basketball tournament] behind. That means significant money. We earned it; we ought to get it."