Is COLLEGE PRO coming to the NCAA?

One of the hottest trending topics now in college sports is the discussion about schools paying athletes stipends in addition to their scholarships. The NCAA has opened the possibility for schools to pay athletes with the recently proposed Division I Board of Directors governance restructuring. The issue picked up additional momentum recently when the athletic director at the University of Texas seemed to indicate that sports powerhouse was ready to pay its student athletes $10,000 per year in addition to tuition, room and board.

But for some, paying players is taking things a step too far, creating a separate class of semi-professional athletes. In the Burlington Free Press, University of Vermont President, Tom Sullivan said:

“Quite frankly, it looks like and feels like compensation as opposed to tuition for education … That is a commercial enterprise, not academic or an educational enterprise. That makes it look like an employee ­employer relationship.”

Sullivan’s athletic director, Bob Corran, struck a similar tone in the same story.

“Long term, I’m very, very concerned with where intercollegiate athletics are going to go as a result of this,” Corran said. “But, on the other hand, maybe this gets us to the point where enough people say, ‘listen big five, go do what you do, go do it someplace else. We’ll do what we do.”

Maybe Bob Corran is onto something. The Ivy League came up with its solution over 50 years ago when it abolished athletic scholarships altogether and went to a 100% need-based model for student athletes. A half century later, Ivy League schools boast some of the largest athletic departments in the nation, offering full slates of sports for athletes who play for nothing more than the love of the game. Meanwhile, programs like the University of Texas can’t even manage to sponsor a men’s soccer program in a state with a burgeoning Latino population totally in love with the sport.

So while a handful of big time athletic programs might be ready to go down the ‘College Pro’ path, perhaps it’s time for the vast majority of schools to head in another direction and double down on providing a traditional student athlete experience, one that’s more in line with their traditional educational mission.

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