Schools don’t have to pursue big-time Division I sports; athletically gifted individuals shouldn’t be required to do so, either.
The institutional question was addressed in a David Moltz article in Inside Higher Ed in which he examined UC San Diego’s contemplated move from Division II to Division I.
Athletics Director Earl Edwards says that the overall profile of the university matches that of Division I more than it does Division II. That may be so, opponents say, but it ignores the fiscal crisis in California higher education that surrounds the examination.
A similar debate recently reached a conclusion in Nebraska, where officials at Nebraska-Omaha did choose to reclassify their successful Division II program to Division I. In so doing, the university announced that it was eliminating both its football and wrestling programs. The wrestling team learned of the decision just after it had won the Division II national championship.
The decision led to harsh words from Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com.
Division I is taking action these days to control its ever-expanding membership. A membership moratorium is currently in place, and when it’s lifted, the cost of admission is going to be much higher than it was before. Will the seven-figure price tag deter new members? We’ll see.
But the bigger, harder, long-term question involves not the entry fee but rather the ongoing expense required to sustain a Division I program, especially a competitive one. Any institution choosing that route is in for a long fiscal pull (only 14 Division I programs generate revenues over expenses, when institutional subsidies are removed). Perhaps the image boost is worth it, but the cost over time is huge. That’s not opinion; that’s a fact.
As for the choices facing individuals…
Mass media is virtually crackling these days with op-ed pieces and blogs about the need to pay players. Here are three that showed up today, but there are others:
The Madness of not paying college athletes (Boyce Watkins, The Huffington Post)
The final frontier in worker exploitation − the NCAA (Warren Meyer, Forbes)
If everybody agreed that student-athletes were workers, then these commentators would have a point. But they aren’t. They are students. The fact that large amounts of money can accrue from the enterprise does not change their role.
There’s no point here in rehashing the pros and cons of pay-for-play. If you’ve read this far, you already know them.
But if you’re looking for a fresh perspective about choices that should be available to all young athletes, I encourage you to read John Infante’s Bylaw Blog from yesterday, entitled “The Deal.”
My only regret is that I didn’t write it myself.