Earlier this month, NCAA President Myles Brand announced the formation of The Presidential Task Force on the Future of Intercollegiate Athletics in an effort to assist athletic departments in controlling the rising expenses of college athletics. University of Arizona President Peter Likins will chair the 25-member task force, chiefly comprised of university presidents and two individuals representing university governing boards.
The names of the remaining members have yet to be released, but there has been no indication they will include any members of the group that will be most affected by the task force’s actions: student-athletes.
With the double mission of helping athletic departments uphold the values and standards of their educational institutions and developing a plan to stabilize soaring costs, many student-athletes may wonder, “Why don’t I have a say in the upcoming changes?”
I happen to strongly agree with the mission of the task force. All too often Division I athletic departments forget they are a part of the university, not independent subsidiaries. Many coaches, such as Connecticut men’s basketball coach Jim Calhoun, earn millions of dollars and enjoy celebrity status. Calhoun’s current contract calls for $9.1 million over six years. Not too shabby.
The commercialization of college sports has given athletic departments higher expenditure rates than universities themselves. According to a report in USA Today last year, spending on D-I sports increased 25 percent between 1995-2001 while general university spending increased an average of just 10 percent. Clearly, costs need to be stabilized.
But to make decisions that truly benefit student-athletes, one would think it common sense to include their voices. Their exclusion from the task force is a troubling oversight. Even here at Temple, there are two student members of the Dean’s Advisory Committee to adequately represent the student body. Then again, common sense isn’t too common.
A modern-day rendition of taxation without representation, athletes will be forced to accept the redistribution of revenue as the task force sees fit. In effect, presidents and officials from across the country will decide what to cut and what to keep. Like a mother rooting through her son’s closet, something valuable is bound to get thrown out. Shouldn’t students have a say in what exactly it is that gets tossed?
Time has made what were once luxuries and made them necessities. For example, 20 years ago laptop computers for student-athletes would have seemed extraneous expenditures. For today’s athletes they are often a necessity; what student-athletes may view as necessary, middle-aged officials might not.
Brand called the formation of the task force an “exercise in prudent leadership.” In my humble view, to lead is to serve. As such, how can one truly lead without full knowledge of the actual needs of those they are supposedly serving?
Alison Stuart can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.