I was fortunate enough to go to the NCAA Convention in Washington, D.C. a couple of weeks ago with a group of my classmates. As many of them have already expressed, it was an amazing opportunity not only to network, but also to listen to the major issues that are currently occurring in college athletics.
A major theme throughout the weekend was the need to address rising commercial activity within intercollegiate athletics. The State of the Association Address focused on this issue and the need to find the right balance–a balance that ensures that the principles and values of higher education are not compromised.
That got me thinking a lot about the topic of whether student-athletes should be paid. Although this was not specifically addressed in the state of the association speech, I think that it is an indirect side effect of increasing commercial activity—it seems that in some ways commercial activities have contributed to an altering view of the student-athlete. The focus is being placed more on the athlete in student-athlete than on the student in student-athlete.
I am in complete agreement that some commercial activity is necessary and that it has been a critical driver in generating revenues for athletic departments. Without it, facilities, salaries and the overall well-being of the department would suffer. However, I think increasing commercial activity has also blurred the meaning and mission of a student-athlete.
Women’s college basketball lost one of the best, Kay Yow, today (Jan 24, 2009) to cancer at the age of 66. Kay exemplified the ideals of education and college sport throughout her 38-year coaching career. Here is a very abbreviated list of her accomplishments compiled from the NC State Website, an article by ESPN, and my own limited knowledge:
- NC State Head Women’s Basketball Coach 1975-09.
- 737 college game wins during her career.
- She was 680-325 at NC State, only three women’s coaches in DI have coached 1,000 games at one school.
- 20 NCAA Tournament appearances (11 Sweet 16, 1 Elite Eight, 1 Final Four in 1998).
- Even after being diagnosed with cancer in 1987, she coached the 1988 Olympic Team to a Gold Medal.
- In 2002, she was inducted into the James Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame (only the 5th female coach to be inducted).
- She won the ACC tournament in 1980, 1985, 1987 and 1991.
- As recently as 2006-07, she coached the team to a Sweet Sixteen appearance, even after missing 16 games that season due to her illness.
- An honorary Nike Shoe, the Kay Yow Air Huarache.
- Most importantly, a lifetime commitment to mentoring young women during their college years.
Kay Yow began her NC State career a few years after Title IX was signed into law, but before anyone was taking the law seriously. As a coach, she witnessed the gains that could be made towards equality by doing the right things. The following excerpts are from a very well written ESPN article on Kay:
“As Yow once put it, ‘If a person really has a grateful heart, the door can open wide for so many good things to come your way.’ Women like Yow always remembered they were educators first, coaches second — and if that left relatively little time for their personal lives, such was the price of this kind of career happiness. They knew they were pioneers exploring not literal “land” but rather “turf” that traditionally had belonged to men. They knew there were barriers to knock down, but different ways to do that.”
This past weekend a group of 10 first year Ohio University MBA/MSA students attended the NCAA convention. Christina Wright, a former NCAA intern, did an excellent job planning the weekend by getting everyone an NCAA mentor, setting up several meetings with people from the NCAA, Athletic Administrators from around the country, and organizing an incredible weekend for her classmates. I can’t thank Christina enough for everything she put into planning this weekend and providing us with such great opportunities. The weekend certainly didn’t disappoint!
After having had time to sit down and reflect on the weekend, I have realized just how much my classmates and I have taken away from the weekend. In my opinion the most beneficial part off the weekend was the one on one time we were able to get with several successful individuals in the world of college athletics. To put it in perspective, over a 3 day period we had the pleasure of meeting with Bernard Muir (Georgetown Director of Athletics), Steve Watson (St. Bonaventure Director of Athletics), Craig Keilitz (High Point Director of Athletics), Troy Watson (Longwood Director of Athletics), Keith Gill (American Director of Athletics), and Athena Argyropoulos (American Associate AD/SWA. To have the opportunity to meet with that many successful individuals in a 72 hour period could only be possible at the NCAA convention. The best part was, that only scratches the surface.
In addition to the above mentioned people we were able to meet with several other alumni who are currently working for Universities and Conferences around the country and many people from the NCAA. From their career paths to their professional advice and knowledge, we picked their brains every chance that we had and learned a great deal.
Not only did we have the opportunity to network but we were also able to attend several education sessions put on by the NCAA. We learned about the process of adopting or overriding NCAA legislation, saw the State of the Association Address, listened to the inspiring Billie Jean King speak, and toured the amazing Museum in Washington D.C. There is no doubt in my mind every individual that attended the NCAA convention benefited a great deal from it. Whether you are an undergraduate or graduate student looking to get into college athletics, the best $50 investment you can make is to register for next year’s NCAA Convention in Atlanta.
Lastly, spending the weekend with nine of my classmates was the most fun I have had in a long time. I learned a great deal more about them and enjoyed sharing such an amazing experience with them. I guess nothing really brings a group together like a walking around a hectic Washington D.C. to see the monuments and listen to Bruce Springsteen and Pete Seager rehearse for the concert for President Obama’s Inauguration on the steps of Lincoln Memorial in a 10 below windchill.
I was deeply saddened to hear that Dr. Brand has pancreatic cancer and that the prognosis is not good. While Dr. Brand and I have disagreed vociferously on many issues in college athletics, it purpose, and certainly on the reform effort–let there be no doubt that there is no single person, including Walter Byers, who has had such a profound impact on the Association in making it better and aligning it with its true purpose. Dr. Brand’s passion for the athlete and fairness has made an archaic waiver process better and more athlete friendly, his push for academic reform has brought to the table discussions that were never spoken before, and his continued work with organizations like COIA and the Knight Commission on improving college athletics is commendable and laudable.
While Dr. Brand and I may disagree on the process to reforming college sports, at the end of the day we want the same thing and that is actual college students playing college sports. I do not believe there has ever been a President of the NCAA who wants it more, and who is willing to risk the political points to get it done.
I am not here to write an obituary of a great man who has given his life’s work to higher education and the betterment of it because he is still very much alive. We are all pulling for Myles to beat this and he certainly needs our thoughts and prayers. While he does need time, much more time, to be part of this world, his legacy is secure and his work with the NCAA will never be forgotten. Here’s hoping we have several more years of critical work done on the reform front and continued debate with Myles Brand on the subject, because I am convinced that without him–we would not even be having the discussion.
God Bless and Good Luck Myles–The Ohio University Community and so many others are pulling for you!!!
As the former diversity and inclusion intern at the NCAA, I knew sharing the 2009 NCAA Convention with my colleagues as a professional development trip opportunity would help strengthen their network and define their direction in the industry, especially as we search for summer internships. For me, being able to experience Convention as a delegate rather than a staff member was an interesting twist to my young professional career.
Due to our MBA class schedule and responsibilities, our first day at Convention was Thursday. After attending NCAA educational sessions, checking out the vendors at the Trade Show, listening to the State of the Association speech, watching Billie Jean King receive the NCAA’s Gerald R. Ford award, and attending the Honors and Delegates Celebration at the Newseum, I was already overwhelmed with nostalgia and a sense of homecoming. This time last year I was working with the Division II Student-Athlete Advisory Committee in Nashville, Tennessee.
Friday presented another full schedule. The Division I Issues and Legislative Forums, lunch with alumni, and a meet-and-greet reception with various professionals filled our day. I was able to share a unique experience with my colleagues on how Division I legislation is passed or overridden. Most people think that the NCAA has the power to create and implement legislation. False! It’s actually the membership who drives legislative decisions and now I have 9 other graduate students as witnesses.
Anyway, for the fourth consecutive year, Division I was faced with another override vote regarding men’s basketball coaches observing nonscholastic events in April. High profile delegate, Damon Evans (chair of the Division I Leadership Council and University of Georgia athletic director) led the discussion on why Division I delegates should oppose the override. Army athletic director and chair of the Division I Men’s Basketball Issues Committee, Kevin Anderson, and Kerry Kenny, outgoing Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, also opposed the override. As a former Patriot League student-athlete, seeing Mr. Anderson and Mr. Kenny be two of the four speakers on the floor persuading the other delegates to oppose the override made me proud. Mr. Anderson’s statement, “We have to send a message, and if we don’t send a message we might as well take the ‘student’ off ‘student-athlete,’ ” reaffirmed why I believe there is magic in intercollegiate athletics.
As a young professional, I have found a common theme in working in intercollegiate athletics: service. If you are in this industry and aren’t in it to serve, you will have a short-lived career. With that mindset, we spent our Saturday morning helping NCAA staff finish up the Division II and III business sessions. We spent the evening touring the monuments and dinner in Georgetown with athletic administrators from my alma mater, American University. The city was buzzing in anticipation of the Presidential Inauguration events. We even saw the dress rehearsal for the actual event at the Lincoln Memorial.
Check out two of our own, Christina Wright and Sean Phifer at the 2009 NCAA Convention. A huge thank you to the NCAA staff and the NCAA Double-A Zone Blog for featuring these graduate students in their video. More about the Convention later.
Most areas of college sports are not impacted one way or another by who the President of the United States is. However, there is one area that sees changes every time a new President is elected. A lot of people don’t realize how Title IX enforcement is tied to the priorities of the President. Under the Bush Administration, Title IX has survived, but that is about it. There was a Commission established to examine the law (most people think it was established to kill the law), a lack of people to enforce the complaints that the Office of Civil Rights did receive, and the addition of a loophole allowing schools to use “interest surveys” (under extremely flawed methodology) to prove they were accommodating the athletics interests and abilities of their female students.
In a December 2008 lecture at Smith College, sports economist Andrew Zimbalist reflected on Title IX during the Bush years. He cited the following statistics from presidential administrations, “During Jimmy Carter’s presidency, the number of female collegiate athletes increased by 9 percent. It also grew by 2 percent during the Reagan administration and by 10 percent during Clinton’s. Under the Bush administration, however, female participation in college sports has stagnated. According to Zimbalist, during Bush’s time in office, athletic funding for women has dropped from 37 percent to 34 percent of funds.”
For those of us that are concerned about continuing to increase opportunities for girls and women to play sports, there is reason to believe that good news is on the horizon as Obama gets ready to take office.
In a recent article on the NCAA website, Obama is quoted as saying,”When I’m president, I’ll fight to make sure our female students have equal opportunities from pre-kindergarten all the way through graduate school. I will strengthen Title IX enforcement at the Department of Education … And I will direct my Department of Education to help schools take steps to fulfill their Title IX obligations in both the sports and academic arenas,” the statement said. “I am the father of two young girls who are growing up playing sports and who are beneficiaries of the doors Title IX opened.”
After watching “my” Gators last night and then talking to people today it seems that winning another National Championship has created the perception that Florida has the “best” athletic program in the country. I am not one to argue with that because I think it might be an accurate statement. But, by what measurement can we declare “the best”?
To the general public, it seems that football and men’s basketball success are the markers of a good athletic department. But, can you have it all? Football and basketball success, a great experience for student-athletes, a lot of sport participation opportunities, and quality programs for all student-athletes?
According to the NACDA website, The Directors’ Cup is presented annually to the best overall collegiate athletics programs in the country in Division I, II, III, and NAIA. In the Dec 24th, 2008 NACDA Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup Standings Florida was 20th. Of course that is before football and there is still a long season in front of the Gators. But, in 2007-08, Stanford won for the 14th straight year. The Directors’ Cup rankings take into account national place finish in a variety of sports, so the lack of a year in and year out powerhouse football team certainly has not hurt Stanford. Should the best program be required to be good in a lot of sports?
Sports Illustrated used a different method to proclaim who had the best overall athletic program and Arizona State was crowned the 2007-08 champ with Stanford in 2nd place. Florida tied for 7th with USC. The SI scoring system put emphasis on ” national titles, top 30 finishes and conference championships” in 22 selected sports according to the website. So, are those the only criteria for success?
Jeremy Foley, the Florida Director of Athletics, was the Street & Smith’s SportsBusiness Journal National Athletic Director of the Year in 2006. Should the quality of the Athletic Director play into a “best” ranking? Mr. Foley earned his Master’s Degree in Sports Administration from Ohio University in 1976, so most of us at Ohio think he walks on water. But, then again every year it looks like he just might.
What about the experience of the student-athlete. I think that this component is directly tied to the quality of administrators who create the student-athlete experience. Wouldn’t it be great to figure out a system that took into account a variety of components to truly establish which program is the “best”. Until then, I consider Florida the best, but I suppose everyone is entitled to his/her opinion on this one.
While serving as event manager for UC Davis Athletics, I was fortunate enough to be on staff the same time a new football stadium was opened…fresh for the 2007 football season. The new facility, compared to larger FBS football stadiums, lacked luxury items such as suites, giant video screens, creative variety in concession offerings, and even lights for night play. However, what it lacked in luxuries, Aggie Stadium made up for in one admirable policy…zero waste.
Zero waste practices, while in place at some college dining commons around the nation, are still nearly impossible to find in athletic facilities. Not to be confused with a standard recycling programs that handle plastic bottles and sometimes paper, zero waste, in this context, simply means that all products of the facility (from the concession stands to the restrooms) are either recyclable or compostable. In theory, if no outside “items” are allowed into the stadium, the standard trash dumpsters after a home football game will be empty. Food wrappers, cups, paper products sold or distributed are all recyclable and uneaten food and other specialty items (such as eating utensils made of potato or corn byproducts*) are compostable.
Zero waste programs were designed with one goal in mind: to have a smaller impact of the environment due to the disposal of garbage from an athletic event. However, as noted in the November 10th issue of the Sports Business Journal, like programs can also save facilities money on waste disposal. Although not a college facility, the Seattle Mariners have apparently saved over $40,000 in trash fees by implementing a more aggressive recycling program at Safeco Field.** With the incredible benefit to the environment and to the facility/universities involved, it is surprising that more schools are not catching on.
For those of you who have not seen the list of bowl gifts being handed out this year- I think it is CRAZY. Of course as a student-athlete it wouldn’t be so bad to receive one of these cool items or the shopping spree’s.
Sports Business Journal published a list of the bowl gift on Dec 8, 2008 and here are the highlights. These items are in addition to the traditional watches, sunglasses, hats, sweats, and other gear provided to the players. Plus, of course there will be championship rings for many of the winning teams provided by their school and per diem meal money as well as up to $20/day incidental expense money throughout their time at the bowl site up to 10 days AND an allowance for travel to and from the game for some schools that play close to Christmas ($800 cash at Oregon).
Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl- Wii System Bundle Package
Capital One Bowl- Party at Best Buy with a $400 shopping spree
Insight Bowl- 26″ LCD HD TV
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl – 8 gig iPod Touch
Rose Bowl presented by Citi- Sony DVD Camcorder
Independence Bowl- Trek Mountain Bike
FedEX BCS National Championship Game- $300 in Sony electronics
Here is the kicker, the limit on value for participant gifts varies between NCAA National Championships and Bowl Games (NCAA Award Chart search for Figure 16-1). Basically, a Conference Championship participant gift is limited to $325 (provided by the institution), a NCAA National Championship/Tournament is limited to $325 (from institution plus an NCAA unlimited value gift), and an All-Star game and Postseason Bowl is limited to $825 ($325 from institution and $500 from Bowl Mgt).
This is certainly not a new phenomenon and I do think that sponsor gifts are a legitimate reward for student-athletes at both Conference and National Championships. But, there seems to be some inequity here which seperates football from all other student-atheltes.