Guest Column: Option for colleges to give student athletes a $2,000 grant

John Testa

As of Oct. 25, Mark Emmert, president of the NCAA, came out in favor of passing legislation that would give schools the option of offering student-athletes a $2,000 grant. Passing this legislation, Emmert says, would help student-athletes with college expenses that aren’t covered by the student’s athletic scholarship. This grant also is to support student-athletes who are unable to work part-time jobs because of their rigorous practice and class schedule. The legislation essentially adds an extra $2,000 on top of tuition, room and board, books, and other fees that the scholarships cover. Emmert goes further and proposes that this legislation, if passed, will be up to the collegiate conferences whether they implement the additional $2,000 grant.

As an avid sports fan, and once a student-athlete, I found the proposed legislation bittersweet. The NCAA is a billion-dollar business. It is not difficult to find the TV contracts that schools have such as Notre Dame with NBC, Texas’s recent signing with ESPN asnd the Big Ten having their own network. This does not take into account the revenue schools take in on game days in the form of tickets and merchandise. I have always thought that the students are competing on behalf of the school but aren’t fully aware of the revenue they are bringing in. Because of this, I’ve long argued they need to be compensated for what they are really doing: using their talents to bring in revenue that they won’t ever see.

A former student-athlete myself, I’ve questioned why I wasn’t seeing anything for the duties I was performing on the field. As I got older, and reality truly sets in, I’ve come to see that a free education is great compensation. The days of a student-athlete are numbered, and the chances of making it to the professional arena are quite rare. This is where the free education should come into play; it’s time to join the real world and become an active member of society in some way, shape or form. But, as times continue to change, my view has been labeled as conservative and flawed. The education that many students come to college for doesn’t carry the same level of importance as it once did. Student-athletes want more than their predecessors had, in turn, creating a competition of how to expand personal gains beyond the realm of academics.

As the argument returns full-circle, it should be evident that the role of education is more limited than ever for the student-athlete. The potentially undermining legislation that the NCAA is contemplating takes even more pressure off students to excel academically because they are now (essentially) being paid. This begs the question: What is the role of the student-athlete? It seems evident that as long as the NCAA is running itself like the NFL, and as the colleges and universities stay on board, the “student” in student-athlete will be pushed into the background for the sake of athletically based revenue.

Josh Testa is a graduate student in the department of political science. Contact him at [email protected].