Rock Hill, S.C. — Those vocal advocates of paying college athletes for their services can forget about it. It is not going to happen. At least that is the word from Mark Emmert, the NCAA’s new man in charge.
“We’re not going to pay players to play sports,” Emmert said Friday prior to speaking at an athletics banquet to celebrate Winthrop University’s 125th anniversary.
Emmert’s succinct comment was in response to the persistent chatter among fans that athletes are riding Mopeds to class and scraping by in tattered T-shirts while NCAA coaches and administrators are driving luxury cars and sipping Dom Perignon.
It hardly seems fair, at least in the view of many fans. They claim the great imbalance could be solved by including athletes on the monthly payroll of every NCAA school.
Of course, it is not that simple. First, most of those yelping the loudest want only football players to be paid because that sport generates the bulk of operating budgets throughout the NCAA.
The problem with that line of thinking is NCAA schools would have to pay all athletes in men’s and women’s sports, which is not financially feasible. As Emmert pointed out, only 14 of the approximately 1,100 NCAA-member athletics departments broke even or turned a profit this past year.
So, what to do to about the public perception that the fat cats are living the high life off the underlings? Emmert says it starts with getting the word out about how the NCAA serves athletes. That means renaming amateurism rather than redefining it.
Emmert is doing his part on the former stance. Since taking over as NCAA president on Nov. 1, Emmert has made himself more visible than any of his predecessors.
Now Emmert is out preaching the good word of the NCAA. He tells audiences that student-athletes graduate at a higher rate than student bodies. He says student-athletes are afforded golden opportunities to improve their lot in life through scholarships.
“People fight like crazy to come to the United States to gain access to American universities because they are the best, and that includes athletes,” Emmert says. “There is no place to get the kind of athletic experience, without being a professional, to get you ready for that profession that you can get anywhere in the world except at an American university.
“So, what does a young person have to do? Well, they have to go to school and get a good education. Then they get to enjoy all these amazing activities. Then, if they are talented enough, go out and make a fortune playing sports. That strikes me as a pretty good deal.”
While that is all well and good, it does not address the problems the NCAA faces in defining amateurism. More and more, it seems, student-athletes are accepting under-the-table payouts that jeopardize their amateur status.
Emmert prefers to use the term “pre-professional,” rather than amateur. He says the NCAA is in the business of preparing its student-athletes to be professionals, whether it be in the business world or in the sports world.
Emmert says NCAA schools help prepare athletes for professional sports by providing top-level coaching, training and facilities. He says the NCAA needs to go further by educating athletes for a possible future in professional sports.
To that end, the NCAA recently formed a committee to study and make recommendations for how better to prepare student-athletes for professional sports.
Emmert is certain the committee will not recommend that college athletes be paid.