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Arizona State’s attempt to keep Grand Canyon University out of Division I is very transparent

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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Arizona State president Michael Crow (AP)

Had the Pac-12 expressed concern about a for-profit university joining the NCAA when Grand Canyon University entered Division II a decade ago, that would have been an ideal time for such a discussion.

Instead the Pac-12 waited until after Grand Canyon began the transition to Division I to try to block the move, a tactic that suggests the league could have other motives for not welcoming the Phoenix school.

To recap, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott told CBSSports.com on Thursday that the league's CEOs have sent a letter to the NCAA questioning the admittance of for-profit schools to Division I. According to Scott, the concern among the league presidents stems from for-profit schools being "responsible to financial partners and shareholders" rather than faculty or students.

Scott insists the Pac-12 would have raised concerns whether the for-profit school in question was Grand Canyon or one on the East Coast, but the fact Arizona State president Michael Crow is the one spearheading the push makes it's difficult to believe that's true.

Grand Canyon CEO Brian Mueller told ArizonaSports.com that Crow instructed every Sun Devils coach not to schedule Grand Canyon soon after the school announced its intention to join Division I. Mueller also said Crow encouraged other Pac-12 presidents to follow suit and cancel games scheduled with Grand Canyon.

Why would Arizona State be concerned about Grand Canyon joining Division I? Perhaps someday the Sun Devils will not want to have another local Division I school to recruit against athletically, but for right now Mueller believes Crow's stance has little to do with sports.

"Arizona State has never had to compete for traditional-aid students in the state, nor have they had to compete for non-traditional working adult students attending online," Mueller told ArizonaSports.com. "I know that's a big goal of theirs, to replace lost tax revenues with online students, and we're a big player in that arena."

There's no question joining Division I in athletics will boost the visibility of Grand Canyon, especially if they were to enjoy success down the road. The school appears committed to being competitive right away in the fledgling WAC, having hired ex-Phoenix Suns star Dan Majerle as its coach and having landed ex-Arizona State and New Mexico guard Demetrius Walker via transfer.

It would have been reasonable for a group of university presidents to request further discussion about a for-profit school joining the NCAA when Grand Canyon entered Division II a decade ago. But the fact that it's Crow leading the charge and that he waited until Grand Canyon entered Division I to raise his concerns suggests his motives are more based on what's best for Arizona State than what's best for college athletics as a whole.

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