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Topic: General Interest: College Sports / Increasing Player Benefits
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
General Interest: College Sports / Increasing Player Benefits
Posted: Sep 26, 2013 2:49 PM
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From The Chronicle of Higher Education, Wednesday, September 25,
2013. See
In College Sports, a New Openness to Increasing Player Benefits

By Brad Wolverton

Until now, the debate over paying college athletes has had two
diametrically opposed camps: those who fiercely oppose the idea, and
those who see it as the only equitable solution to one of the
National Collegiate Athletic Association's biggest challenges.

But in recent weeks, some of those staunch critics have softened
their stance, conceding that the association should consider
alternative benefits to players beyond the value of their

Nearly a dozen major-conference commissioners and athletic directors
told The Chronicle that they would favor the creation of a trust
fund, or the provision of other educational benefits, that
high-profile athletes could tap into upon graduation. While none of
those officials are pushing for athletes to be treated as employees,
their openness to additional player benefits signals an unexpected

The idea for a trust fund-which is endorsed by the National College
Players Association, a group that advocates for players' rights-is
one of several gaining momentum as commissioners meet this week in
Chicago to discuss ideas for a revamped Division I.

"Enhancing the student-athlete package, particularly in the major
revenue sports, is something that needs to happen," said Britton
Banowsky, commissioner of Conference USA. "When you have coaches
making $5-million, and the student package is still a basic
scholarship, something's got to give."

The most powerful athletics departments are agitating for the right
to award each player an extra $2,000 toward the full cost of
attending college. Less-wealthy Division I colleges have resisted the
idea, which has become a lightning rod in the NCAA-redesign

Last weekend football players on at least three major-college teams
wrote the letters "APU," for All Players United, on parts of their
equipment, protesting the NCAA's treatment of athletes on issues
including player compensation and concussions.

The players' group, which helped coordinate the protest, wants the
NCAA to "direct a portion of its over $1-billion in new TV revenue to
guarantee basic protections" for athletes. The protections it seeks
include guaranteed scholarship renewals for permanently injured
players, improved medical coverage for athletes, and more money to
help players cover their full college costs.

The commissioners are in early-stage discussions about ways to
improve Division I governance, clean up the NCAA's enforcement
problems, and help the association better allocate its resources.
Those conversations are part of a national dialogue about the
association's top level that is expected to play out over the next

Tackling Tough Questions

Much of the public debate has centered on the five wealthiest
conferences and their push to create their own grouping, which would
allow them to make the rules and policies they want without
resistance from the smaller leagues. But behind closed doors, some
top officials say they have begun more-serious conversations about
such issues as player benefits and the ability of athletes to earn
money off their names.

It's too early to know where those conversations will lead, but some
observers are encouraged to see more willingness to tackle the game's
tough questions.

"We need to think outside the model we currently have," said Amy
Perko, executive director of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate
Athletics. "It can't just be who sits in what chair for governance.
We've got to recognize that big-time football is really different
than men's golf or men's and women's cross-country, and we've got to
create a system that recognizes that."

In conversations with commissioners, athletic directors, and other
leaders, The Chronicle turned up a handful of ideas that, if
approved, could significantly reshape Division I. They include
proposals to reorganize big-time athletics by sport or region, and
move oversight of major-college football into a separate structure
within the NCAA.

The deliberations come as the NCAA faces increasing pressure to treat
athletes more equitably. At the nexus is Ed O'Bannon, a former UCLA
standout. In a federal lawsuit he and other current and former
players argue that the association, through its antiquated concept of
amateurism, has illegally prevented players from earning their fair
share of the money.

The plaintiffs want a cut of the vast television revenue the NCAA
generates. The NCAA has denied their claims and last week filed a
motion asking a judge to dismiss the matter.

Sharing the Wealth

Regardless of the outcome of that case, which is scheduled to go to
trial next summer, the newfound riches in the biggest leagues have
led many athletics leaders to take a harder look at the
beneficiaries, and consider new ways of helping players.

"The economic realities of today's world make those kinds of
prospects more viable for at least consideration," said one
major-college athletic director who, like many officials, did not
want to be named because the discussions are preliminary. "There
needs to be an accommodation for not only the money that's there
today but what it might become tomorrow."

There is little consensus around what such a new model might look
like, but some commissioners said the timing of any benefits was key.

"I don't expect we will support providing payments that exceed the
cost of attendance in the current year," said Mr. Banowsky, of
Conference USA. But some commissioners said they could see a
deferred-benefit strategy.

"There's a way to engage in that conversation that is incentive-based
for athletes relative to academics," one major-conference
commissioner said. "It's not just, 'Here's some money for you, thanks
for playing.' It needs to be wrapped in an educational context."

Colleges worry about Title IX implications, and say that set-asides
under the federal gender-equity law could lead to cutbacks in
nonrevenue sports. But proponents say the money could come from new
television agreements or revenue that is being used for other
purposes, such as rapidly increasing coaches' compensation or, as one
athletic director put it, "the Corian counters in the coach's

Help Beyond College Years

Many people agree, however, that any such funds should be limited to
high-profile athletes who complete a four-year degree.

"It may be a motivating factor that would keep kids in," said Peg
Bradley-Doppes, vice chancellor for athletics at the University of
Denver, who has served on the NCAA's Division I Leadership Council.

The NCAA should also use this opportunity to rethink its oversight of
player health, several athletics leaders said.

One athletic director in an elite NCAA program said he was
"underwhelmed" by the NFL's recent concussion settlement, which is
designed to provide $765-million over 20 years to thousands of former

He wants the NCAA to set aside money for athletes with dementia and
other long-term problems associated with head injuries they suffered
in college, accommodating both current and former athletes.

"We need to start thinking about resourcing that," this person said.
"We should be in the student-athlete welfare business, not only
immediate but post."
SIDEBAR PHOTO: In games this past weekend, some players wrote the
letters "APU," for All Players United, on parts of their equipment to
protest the NCAA's treatment of athletes on issues including
compensation and concussions. Among them were Georgia Tech's Vad Lee
(right), whose wristband carries the symbolic protest. Robert
Willett/Raleigh News & Observer/MCT
Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244

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