Principle Three of the Arizona Sports Summit Accord asserts that sports programs must be conducted in a manner that enhances the mental, social, and moral development of athletes and teaches them positive life skills that will help them become personally successful and socially responsible.
But many schools fail to live up to this principle, and NCAA rules themselves seem to run counter to the best interests of student-athletes. The NCAA manual demands that student-athletes be “protected from exploitation by professional and commercial enterprise,” but, as Michael Rosenberg asks in a recent Sports Illustrated column, “When an athlete sells his jersey so he can pay rent, and the NCAA suspends him, is the NCAA really protecting him?”
Scholarships have never covered all of players’ living expenses, and student-athletes practicing 40 hours per week don’t have time for part-time jobs, especially if they’re at all interested in getting an education. Last summer a few sportswriters wondered whether college players ought to get paid, either by agents or schools. Now several commissioners are arguing for a change in the system.
At the ACC football kickoff media event on July 24, Commissioner John Swofford suggested that athletic scholarships cover not only tuition but the full cost of attending college. Commissioners Jim Delaney of the Big Ten and Mike Slive of the SEC are making the same argument.
Why pay the full cost? As Ken Tysiac writes in The Charlotte Observer, “Proponents say paying the full cost of attendance would ease the financial pressure on impoverished athletes.” Also, it might help athletic programs better serve the student-athletes and increase fan support. Matt Mitten, the director of the National Sports Law Institute at Marquette University Law School, told ESPN, “I doubt certainly the student-athlete’s cost of attendance will diminish the strong, fanatical support and interest in college sports. In fact, it might increase it, because a number of these kids might hopefully stay in school longer and more likely might earn their degree.”
North Carolina State’s Athletic Director Debbie Yow supports the full-cost plan but thinks the amount paid to athletes should be standardized so no school gains a recruiting advantage. “It’s probably the right thing to do for student-athletes,” Yow told The Observer. “How to best determine that state universities and private universities are treated the same and calculate the cost of attendance should be a central, focal point in that discussion.”
Opponents of the plan argue that paying the full cost of attendance would cost more than many athletic programs can afford, giving some schools unfair recruiting advantages.
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The Arizona Sports Summit Accord
Nearly 50 influential leaders in sports issued the Arizona Sports Summit Accord in 1999 to encourage greater emphasis on the ethical and character-building aspects of athletic competition. Read the full text here.