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Pay-for-Play/Unionization Background

Author: 
NCAA

April 10, 2014

Pay-for-Play/Unionization Background

The NCAA communications staff prepared the following material to assist members in conducting public outreach or responding to media requests. The information below clearly states a variety of different points that can be made through op-eds in local/regional papers and other outlets like the Huffington Post, in media interviews, through social media outreach and with editorial board activation. These points are meant merely as a guide or starting point for sharing your own views.

 

General Talking Points

  • We want student athletes – 99% of whom will never turn pro – focused on what matters most – finding success in the classroom, on the field and in life.
  • NCAA schools provide the opportunity of a lifetime for their student-athletes – from scholarships to championship experiences. We can improve the current system to better support student-athletes and we are striving to do just that.
  • We know we have work to do. But do we really want to signal to society and high school students that making money is the reason to come play a sport in college, as opposed to getting an education, which will benefit you for a lifetime?   That’s not the message I want to send.

 

Why Pay for Play Isn’t the Answer

  • We understand the passion and emotion around college sports and also recognize that the current model is not perfect and needs to be improved, but that does not mean student-athletes should be employees.
  • The overwhelming majority of student-athletes play college sports as part of their educational experience and because they love their sport, not to be paid a salary
  • While advocates of professionalizing college sports make their arguments seem simple, they’re not.  The negative impact of turning these students into paid employees would be vast.

 

The World with Student-Athlete Unions/Pay for Play

  • Athletics scholarships would be cut or eliminated.
  • The number of championship experiences would be dramatically reduced.
  • Smaller sports would lose funding.
  • Support services of all kinds currently offered by athletics departments for students would be drastically affected – academic support, career counseling, tutoring – all cut significantly or eliminated entirely.
  • Do we really want to signal to society and high school students that making money is the reason to come play a sport in college, as opposed to getting an education, which will benefit you for a lifetime?   That’s not the message I want to send.

 

We Can Do Better

  • Our members believe in addressing some of the legitimate concerns that critics have raised, like providing the full cost of attendance – to help pay for that trip home or to grab a movie and dinner – particularly for those students with limited economic means.
  • Our members should give student-athletes a complete educational experience.
  • Schools can now provide any educational expense they feel is appropriate, including scholarships for student-athletes to finish their bachelor’s or even master’s degrees  10, 15, 20 years from now.
  • Student-athletes already have access to the supplies they need to achieve academic success, whether it’s a laptop computer, the best tutoring and advising or a suit to wear to a job interview.
  • Schools can and should provide their student-athletes with life-enriching encounters like cultural experiences and other supplements to classroom and athletics activities.
  • Student-athletes should not have to worry about their scholarships being pulled if they are injured or ill.
  • Yes, we need to re-evaluate some of the current rules. But completely throwing away a system that has helped literally millions of students over the past decade alone attend college is absolutely not the answer.

 

Important Facts/Proof Points

  • Facts matter, and unfortunately in this debate some key ones are too often ignored or overlooked.
  • More than 90 percent of NCAA revenue goes back to member schools.
  • Our member schools provide $2.7 billion in athletic scholarships every year.
  • The model we have today enables 460,000 male and female student athletes, across 1,100 schools and 23 different sports to compete on the playing field while getting a college degree.  Many of these student athletes would not be able to attend college were it not for the athletics scholarship they received.
  • About 15 percent of all Division I student-athletes are first-generation college students.
  • A 2013 study by The College Board shows that the median lifetime earnings of bachelor’s degree recipients are 65 percent higher than those of high school graduates.
  • More than eight out of 10 Division I student-athletes earn their degrees. Since 2005, more than 11,500 student-athletes returned to school to earn their degrees after leaving early.
  • According to CNN, the average college student graduates with about $35,200 in debt, which most Division I student-athletes do not have.
  • Division I already allows its members to pay for degrees after eligibility is expired, to provide whatever medical treatment is necessary including insurance and provide whatever supplies or experiences are necessary to contribute to a full educational experience.

 

What Others Are Saying

“The Ivy League remains deeply committed to our longstanding approach to intercollegiate athletics as one valued component of the educational experience for more than 8,000 student-athletes at our eight institutions. The Ivy League model is based firmly on the principle that student-athletes attend our universities as students first and foremost, and that their participation in NCAA Division I athletics is part of their overall educational experience. We are committed to providing developmental opportunities for these young men and women through outstanding academics and competitive Division I athletics experiences that in turn prepare them for current success on and off the playing field and throughout their lives.  The Ivy League will continue to work with our Division I colleagues to keep the well-being and welfare of student-athletes paramount in the governance of college athletics.” – The Ivy League

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"Clearly, change is in the air in college football with issues like pay-for-play, unionization and concussion prevention drawing national attention. As an administrator, these are all worthy of discussion in terms of how we can create a better environment within the rules of the NCAA. Regarding unionization specifically, I have looked at the demands of the Northwestern players, and quite honestly, we provide most of those already at USC. We do not yank scholarships from players, and we happily pay for former student-athletes to come back and complete their degrees. In terms of health benefits and stipends, we provide the maximum allowed under NCAA rules, but we would love the opportunity to do more, especially when it comes to feeding our student-athletes. It is unjust that we cannot feed them when they are hungry. The Northwestern case will work its way through the court system over the next few years, and we will closely monitor it, and maintain a dialogue with our student-athletes about how we can improve.'' – Pat Haden, Athletics Director, Southern California

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“We've got enough entitlement in this country as it is. To say these guys get nothing totally devalues an education. It just blows my mind people don't even want to quantify an education. I didn't get into coaching to make money - coaches weren't making any money when I got into coaching. It's what I wanted to do with my life, and I was able to do it because of my education. That's what changed my life. That's what changes everybody's life.

"I am 1,000 percent in favor of a stipend or modernizing the scholarships, because they haven't changed. Costs more to go to a movie, costs more to buy gas, costs more to wash your clothes than it did when I was in school. There needs to be an adjustment there. But as far as professionalizing college athletics, college athletics would go away.

"(Former Clemson quarterback and NFL draft prospect) Tajh Boyd could quit football right now, and they'd be lined up from here to California to hire that guy. You know why? Because he took advantage of his opportunity and his platform and marketing and the brand. These guys are trained; they've got great expertise and great resources." – Dabo Swinney, Head Football Coach, Clemson

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"Notwithstanding today's decision, the SEC does not believe that full-time students participating in intercollegiate athletics are employees of the universities they attend." – Mike Slive, Commissioner, Southeastern Conference

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“In my view, student-athletes are not employees. They attend a university to earn a degree and participate in the sport they love.” – Ian McCaw, Athletics Director, Baylor University

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“Although we have not yet read the ruling, we are aware that the National Labor Relations Board’s regional director in Chicago has ruled that student-athletes at Northwestern University are entitled to have the opportunity to form a labor union. We disagree with the ruling and believe that health and economic issues raised by student-athletes are best handled as part of the collegiate model, between universities and their students.” – Larry Scott, Commissioner, Pacific-12 Conference

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“While we respect the process followed by the National Labor Relations Board, we disagree with the ruling. We don’t believe that student-athletes are university employees. The issues raised during the hearings are already being discussed at the national level, and we believe that students should be a part of the conversation.” – Big Ten Conference

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“You get into the unionization and creating this business atmosphere, there are a lot guys that won't be able to play. And that's the other thing. Who is making the money? Which sports are making the money? To create a union, I just don't think that's in the [context] of being a student athlete. I think if you take it that far, you're going to end up making it a business.
“I just [think] the NCAA just needs to reevaluate [itself]. It doesn't need to be taken to the point where student athletes need to unionize.” –  Tarek Saleh, Former football student-athlete, Wisconsin

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Media:

ACC ADs Leery of Unionization

By Heather Dinich, ESPN

College Sports and the Student-Athlete 

By Dr. Brian C. Mitchell, Huffington Post

Nick Saban: College Athletes Need a Voice 
USA Today

NLRB ruling on Northwestern football players opens up more questions than answers
By Sally Jenkins, Washington Post 

Playing College Football Is a Job
By The Editorial Board, New York Times

Stanford Coach Questions Unionization Movement 
By Antonio Gonzalez, Washington Post

Scholars, Players and Union Members
Debate, New York Times

VIDEO: NCAA President: Unionizing Student Athletes Not a Good Idea
Featuring NCAA President Mark Emmert, Face the Nation on CBS

VIDEO: NCAA Prez Emmert Discusses Paying Players, NCAA's Future
Fetauring NCAA President Mark Emmert, CBS Sports

Why Unionizing College Sports Is a Bad Call 
By LouAnna Simon and Nathan Hatch, Wall Street Journal

Wrong Prescription for College Sports 
By Larry Scott, USA Today

For additioanl information please reach out to Bob Williams at bwilliams@ncaa.org.

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