Larry Scott, Jim Delany advance call for restoring academic, athletic balance
Watch the conversation with Larry Scott and Jim Delany this Friday night at 10 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks during our special, "Pac-12 Presents: Inside College Football."
Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott advanced a call Wednesday for strengthening the support that schools can provide student-athletes, but cautioned that radical change would come at the expense of non-revenue sports.
A day after the 12 Pac-12 university presidents co-signed a letter to their colleagues at the member institutions of the Pac-12's peer conferences advocating for reforms to scholarships, medical insurance and practice time, Scott and Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany spoke in lockstep about the urgent need for the NCAA to reform its rules and more.
Speaking at the Commonwealth Club in downtown San Francisco, Scott said that amid heavy and mounting criticism of the current system that governs how much support - both monetary and otherwise - student-athletes receive, it's time to restore balance between academics and athletics.
"What our presidents want to make clear is what we intend to do, and it was important to send a signal," Scott said. "There's a lot of carping going on. This is a statement that the leaders of our institutions intend to do more."
Scott said, though, that the shame in many of the discussions surrouding student-athlete benefits is that they neglect to recognize that if change happens too quickly or too radically, it could dramatically shift resources toward football and revenue generating sports. That, in turn, would adversely effect a variety of non-revenue and Olympic sports at many schools.
"If this leads to radical solutions that suck the level of resources that support other sports, sports would get cut, and that would be an awful shame," he said. "Football is a major revenue generator. That revenue is used to support 17,000 student-athletes across 35 sports.
"It's very core to the mission of our schools that we offer broad-based participation. It's a fundamental part of the overall academic mission."
In the letter, the Pac-12's presidents called on their colleagues to support reforms that would allow schools to award full-cost-of-attendance scholarships, guarantee those scholarships for enough time to complete a degree and strongly police the amount of time athletes are spending traveling, at practice and playing.
Scott and Delany both said that academic primacy and meeting the financial and personal needs of student-athletes are pivotal to making sure they're fostering a healthy, competitive environment for thousands of young men and women.
"We should return some balance to the enterprise," Scott said. "We have a responsibility to provide higher education opportunities for a broad array of people. This is a wakeup call and an opportunity to do better."
Delany, who has goverened the Big Ten since 1989, said that he couldn't argue with many of the substantive ideas that one of his league's former athletes, Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter, brought to the table during his push for student-athlete unionizatation. He said that the NCAA's regulatory system has been "stuck for the past 30 years" and that there's a lot of momentum for change.
Both he and Scott, though, said that unionization wasn't the answer and that change needs to be affected at the NCAA and school level.
"This is not professionalizing athletes; this is about prioritizing what opportunities you have for men and women to go to college," Delany said.
In terms of full-cost scholarships, both commissioners said that anything above and beyond what it costs for a student to attend college constitutes "pay to play," which neither support. Rather, both strongly support the model in which a student-athlete is able to receive up to the full amount it would cost to attend each univeristy and complete their degree.
"We have evolved to looking at full cost of attendance, which is different at every school," Scott said. "Essentially on the table is that whatever the full cost is at our schools, that's what you can compensate student-athletes. It's a pretty simple concept."
Among the other topics addressed by Commissioners Scott and Delany on Wednesday night:
- Scott said that the league is actively pursuing a football schedule that includes fewer night games, but prefaced it by affirming how valuable having a national nighttime television window is for advancing the league and its brand. "The only one of the big five (conferences) that can play a 7 p.m. West Coast game is the Pac-12," he said. "When we redid our national TV agreements, we wanted more revenue and full national distribution on par with other conferences. If you want that, this is what we need."
- Delany said that he resents the notion that playing college football or basketball is the sole pathway to a career in professional sports and that the current system is unsustainable. In the Pac-12 presidents' letter, the league suggested the reintroduction of freshman ineligibilty in response to the NBA's "one-and-done" rule. The Big Ten commissioner said that he'd like to see both the NBA and NFL take on greater responsibility for developmental leagues for players who would rather go pro than shorten their time in college. "If players are committed to the major league track, that's their choice," he said. "If players want to come and get an education, our games will be fine. If they come, I'd like to see stability."
- Scott said that he's pleased with the current balance between the tradition that the Rose Bowl presents and the clamor for and introduction of the College Football Playoff, saying that the format goes a long way toward preseving the traditional Big Ten/Pac-12 format. He said he believes that they've struck an "elegant balance" with a four-team playoff, which begins this season, and having the Rose Bowl be a part of it. He also said that winning conference titles and a team's strength of schedule will be two of the most important components of a team's resume to be evaluated by the playoff's selection committee.
- In response to the banishment of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling from the NBA by Commissioner Adam Silver, Scott said that the move was just when placed in the perspective of sport being a positive influence on society. "To step up and make a statement that our league stands for fairness and against discrimination and hate, I think it's very powerful," he said.