The idea of paying college athletes to play is nothing new, but over this past summer the idea has gained a lot of momentum. So much in fact, that during the first day of a summit between college presidents and the NCAA, the group has proposed rules to “award bigger, longer scholarships to athletes.”
In theory, this is a great idea…Only, I left out part of the sentence. According to ESPN:
If the rules pass, each Division I conference would have the option to award bigger, longer scholarships to athletes. That would represent a sea change from previous NCAA philosophy, in which all schools in the same division were supposed to play by the same rules and policies.
Is this for real? The NCAA is actually considering a policy that would allow each conference to set their own rules when it comes to player scholarships? This is completely bypassing the issue at hand: instead of having a discussion and making a decision on the merits of offering “full cost” scholarships to athletes, they’ve decided to just leave it up to someone else. And not just one “someone else,” 31 separate “someone elses” in Division I alone.
This is a major issue with potential serious implications. This summer has been dominated with the media questioning the NCAA’s ability to control cheating amongst it’s member institutions, and this is an idea that if not regulated properly can be easily abused and drive collegiate athletics farther into the darkness. And how does the NCAA respond. They push the responsibility, and the blame, onto some else, offering no solutions. (Way to take a cue from Congress, guys)
Not only does the NCAA miss an opportunity to have a real impact on protecting the integrity of college athletics, this brings with it a question as to the fairness of collegiate sports. If Conference A allows “full cost” scholarships and Conference B doesn’t, how are the schools in Conference B, whose hands have just been tied behind their back supposed to compete for recruits? Well, according to NCAA chief Mark Emmert, it doesn’t matter, because a level playing field in college sports is already a myth because each school’s athletic budget can vary widely.
Essentially, Emmert is admitting the system is broken. And since it’s already broken, the NCAA feels no responsibility to fix it.
Budgets are a choice by each member institution. Each school is in complete control of their own athletic budget. They can choose to change it as they see fit. That unfairness isn’t being created by the NCAA, it’s being created by the schools themselves. Does a school with a 300-million athletic budget have an advantage over a school with a 5-million dollar budget, of course it does. But should the school with a 300-million dollar budget be given a even greater advantage based on it’s conference? Absolutely not. While schools have some level of control over which conference they play in, they are not the sole decider. They must be invited to join another conference. (Just ask Jacksonville State)
But we all know where the bedrock of this potential rule change comes from: money. Who stands to profit from this rule? Those that already have the money. Many programs, often smaller ones, are operating in the red. Clearly, they won’t have the extra money to pay “full cost” scholarships. But the schools that do have that extra money wonder why that should stop them? This plan will only create a greater divide. Now, those schools that have a 300-million dollar budget can expand to a 500-million dollar budget, despite the fact that none of the smaller schools can’t add 200-million to their budgets. Some of them can’t add 2-million, and even if they could, they might not get the option to if their conference doesn’t allow it.
The result? The teams with the money are in a better position to compete, which means more wins, and as a result more money. For the smaller schools, they’re at more of a disadvantage, which means fewer wins, and less money. And if those schools are already operating in the red, their budgets will be forced to shrink.
And this isn’t just an isolated rule…it also sets a precedent of allowing conferences to set their own rules in the future. Conferences are already in competition with each other for teams, why not turn it the intensity up a notch by allowing them to pick and choose which rules they want their schools to follow.
This isn’t about being against “full cost” scholarships. Quite the opposite. I think NCAA athletes are treated unfairly compared to every other student on any other kind of scholarship. But this isn’t how to fix the system.
Because it doesn’t fix it at all.