Do college athletic departments need to share a piece of the pie?
When one of the hosts of “Mike and Mike” suggested that athletic scholarships don’t cost universities anything, NCAA president Mark Emmert, who was formerly president of the University of Washington and of LSU, said quote, “They’re taking a seat from a paying student.” Emmert technically may be right, but his answer misses the point of why schools have athletic programs and offer scholarships to athletes in the first place. They don’t do it out of the goodness of their hearts, but rather because those athletes either make money on the school’s behalf or raise the visibility of the school in a way that a student in the engineering, English or even journalism departments can’t.
Earlier this month, a federal judge ensured that the NCAA will have to address a lawsuit that alleges that athletes are entitled to compensation for the use of their names and likenesses by colleges. Emmert’s answer Friday suggests that the organization’s response is that the athletes are privileged to be wearing their school’s colors in the first place.
You’d have a hard time convincing Shabazz Napier of that idea. Napier led the Connecticut men’s basketball team on an improbable run to a national title earlier this month. In the lead-up, Napier revealed that he and some of his teammates occasionally go hungry because of NCAA rules that govern when and how they can receive food. For instance, athletes could not receive a bagel with cream cheese from a training table outside of a designated meal time, because such a delicacy was considered a meal, not a snack. I’m not making that up, and until Napier’s statement shamed the NCAA into loosening up those rules last week, that was the policy.
You’d also have a hard time getting Leticia Romero to believe that she is privileged to be in school. Romero, a freshman and native of Spain, led the Kansas State women’s basketball team in scoring, rebounding, assists and minutes played in the just completed season. But when the coach she came to America to play for was fired after the season, Romero asked to be released from her scholarship so that she could transfer to another school. However, John Currie, the school’s athletic director refused to release her, and a campus committee upheld his decision, meaning that if Romero wants to leave, she’ll not only have to pay her way for a year, but she would forfeit a year of eligibility as well.
In fairness, college sports were messy long before Mark Emmert took the NCAA’s reins four years ago. But he’s at the helm now, and he’s got to convince his former cronies to get a clue.