Emmert: Not Time to Turn Student-Athletes into Employees

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The Virginian-Pilot(Norfolk, VA.)
September 17, 2013 Tuesday
The Virginian-Pilot Edition
543 words
President insists it's not time to give players a cut

By Nancy Armour

The Associated Press


The structure of the NCAA could look very different by this time next year as members try to resolve the growing disparity between big-money schools and smaller institutions.

What won't change, however, is the amateur status of the players who make college athletics a billion-dollar business.

"One thing that sets the fundamental tone is ... virtually no university president thinks it's a good idea to convert student-athletes into paid employees," NCAA president Mark Emmert said Monday at Marquette University. "Then you have something very different from collegiate athletics. One of the guiding principles (of the NCAA) has been that this is about students who play sports."

Emmert and the NCAA have had a turbulent year, with money the source for most of the discontent. After Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel was investigated for allegedly receiving money for autographs - he was cleared - Time magazine put him on the cover along with the headline "It's Time to Pay College Athletes." Oklahoma State is investigating whether the school broke rules after a series of Sports Illustrated stories that alleged cash payments to players and academic misconduct.

The NCAA also is facing an antitrust lawsuit from former players who believe they're owed millions of dollars in compensation.

"(There's) enormous tension right now that's growing between the collegiate model and the commercial model," said Emmert. "This tension has been going on forever and ever. It has gotten greater now because the magnitude of dollars has gotten really, really large.

"So we're seeing an explosion in the value of sports media properties, and that's injected a lot of revenue into sports," he added. "That's led to a lot of the discussion. This whole notion of treating student-athletes in fair fashion while still maintaining the student-athlete, is at the core of all of this."

One way to address that would be by allowing athletes to turn pro straight out of high school, Emmert said. He also pointed to baseball's two-track model. Players can turn pro out of high school. If they choose to go to college, however, they must stay until after their third year or they turn 21.

While there may not be interest in paying players, the NCAA's Division I Board of Directors has twice approved a rules change that would allow schools to give athletes a stipend to cover expenses not covered by their scholarship - clothes, travel, meals out with their friends. But the full membership has overridden it, with some smaller schools saying they were not interested or did not have the money to pay stipends.

That divide between the large and small schools is part of the greater debate on the NCAA's governance structure. Commissioners from the most powerful conferences and big-market schools have called for an overhaul.

While there has been talk the largest schools could form their own "super division," no one is threatening to leave the NCAA, Emmert said. All of the schools - large and small - want to take part in March Madness, along with the other championships staged by the NCAA.

But there are fundamental differences that have to be sorted out, Emmert said.

"They're having a really hard time finding common interests," he said.


September 17, 2013


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