Against Athletic Scholarships
UC Berkeley just spent $321 million (of borrowed money) on renovating its stadium, and generates roughly $25 Million per year in revenue through the football program alone. On a national scale, ESPN has paid $3.6 billion to the ACC for television rights to its games. Nike and Adidas have effectively split the schools and teams which they sponsor, and ticket costs are only rising for fans, alumni, and students alike. To say that collegiate athletics is solely a co-curricular, amateur program is as big a joke as any, one that the NCAA knows it can’t hide.
If college athletics is to be a co-curricular, amateur level division as it is purporting to be, there need to be significant changes in the organizational structure to allow it to be so. De-professionalization cannot fully take hold without taking away athletic scholarships. They are a loop-hole in the university admissions process which allows for non-academic achievement to be given monetary rewards. At a time when budgets are being slashed nationwide, and the cost of education is causing one of the worst debt crises in America, our universities are spending more than ever to retain prodigious high school talent to the tune of $200,000 an athlete.
This is not to say I don’t think athletics should play a role in the collegiate selection process. I think our hybrid education / extra-curricular qualification system is extremely valuable, and am glad that schools take so many factors into consideration during their selection process. However, to set aside rewards simply for athletes as a way to get them to come to the school is counter-productive and against the mission of these designatedly educational institutions.
Moreover, these scholarships are often open ended and loose contracts made between the University, a coach, and a 17 year old high school senior. Under the guise of being given an opportunity for a great education, student-athletes are performers that are entertaining for a multi-billion dollar industry. At any season, and at coaches discretion this scholarship can be revoked, and the metrics for keeping it are more lax than any academic or merit based one (Marshawn Lynch claims to have kept a 3.2GPA). There is a GPA floor for eligibility to be an athlete period, nothing to say of whether a scholarshiped one or not. They make no mention of need basis and rather subjectivity use it in helping them recruit talent (P. Diddy’s son is getting $50k/year to go to UCLA… an otherwise broke UC school).
We as a culture are allowing, emphasizing, and fostering one particular sector in the educational system to be given inequitable powers, and at a large cost. Let’s do away with incentivizing one extra-curricular activity over all the others, or recognize that this is a corporate program and disallow it from the tax-exempt umbrella given with the guise of educational connection.