Just to amplify on the threat made by the former president of Northwestern referenced in my previous post, here’s his rationale:
Bienen didn’t specifically speak about players being paid, but if the unionization is successful, that would be on the bargaining table, and critics of pay-for-play say they fear that would hurt the academic side of collegiate athletics.
Bienen alluded to that when he said a win for the players could lead private institutions with high academic standards — he specifically cited Duke and Stanford — to abandon the current model in order to preserve academic integrity.
He compared it to the pullback of the Ivy League schools decades ago, when the Ivy League conference decided to opt out of postseason play and to end athletic scholarships, preserving the emphasis on academics for the players.
How noble. Except Duke, Northwestern and Stanford are still offering athletic scholarships, playing in the postseason and claiming that they’ve preserved academic integrity. So how is a student-athlete union suddenly a bridge too far?
Well… since you asked, let’s study a set of figures for some clues:
- The University of Alabama athletics department recorded a $21.2 million surplus for its 2013 fiscal year.
- Since 2006, Alabama has reported annual surpluses totaling $106.5 million.
- Alabama reported $143.8 million in total athletics revenue.
- Alabama’s revenue has increased 84 percent since 2006, the year before Nick Saban became football coach.
- The largest expense continues to be compensation for coaches, support staff and administrators, which reached $42.2 million in 2013.
- In the 2013 fiscal year, Saban received $6,385,824 in total compensation, including salary, benefits, bonuses and third-party pay.
- The gap between an athletic scholarship and the university’s listing of what it actually costs to attend school was $4,332 (in-state) and $5,662 (out-of-state).
As we like to say around here, one of those sets of numbers isn’t like the others.
Sure, Alabama is one of the biggest financial success stories in college athletics. But if this were really nothing more than a fight to preserve academic integrity, why hasn’t Northwestern marched down a similar road to the one Ivy League schools chose (or, closer to home, the path the University of Chicago took long ago) and ditched the whole enchilada already?
Jerry Price, senior associate athletic director at Princeton, said that change for the Ivy League allowed those schools to maintain academic integrity in the sports where, at other schools, academics can often be compromised in the name of the game.
“It was sort of a breaking point moment,” Price said, saying the Ivy League schools made the decision not to move forward like the bigger conferences — to “draw the line with the commercialization of what football was becoming.”
Anybody really think that Northwestern has somehow managed to keep itself above the commercialization fray so far? And that a players’ union would be the straw that breaks that particular camel’s back?
Maybe they should make a documentary about that and run it on the Big Ten Network.