More than 300 major-college football and men’s basketball players are telling the NCAA and college presidents they want a cut of ever-increasing TV sports revenue to fatten scholarships and cover all the costs of getting a degree, with athletes picking up still more grant money when they graduate.
The players from Arizona, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Purdue and UCLA have signed a petition asking the NCAA to “realize its mission to educate and protect us with integrity.” The National College Players Association, an athletes’ advocacy group, provided The Associated Press with copies of the document for release Monday. Players started sending the petition to the NCAA last week.
The document urges the NCAA and college presidents to set aside an unspecified amount of money from what it estimates is $775 million in recently acquired TV revenues in an “educational lock box” for football and men’s basketball players. Players could tap those funds to help cover educational costs if they exhaust their athletic eligibility before they graduate. And they could receive what’s left of the money allocated to them with no strings attached upon graduating — a step that would undoubtedly be seen by some as professionalizing college sports.
The issue of whether to pay college athletes has been getting increased attention at a time when athletic programs from Miami to Ohio State have endured a series of scandals involving impermissible benefits to players. At the same time, athletic conferences have made lucrative, new television deals.
The NCAA opposes paying athletes, but players whose talents enable colleges and coaches to reap millions have been largely silent in the debate until now.
“I really want to voice my opinions,” said Georgia Tech defensive end Denzel McCoy, a red-shirt freshman. “The things we go through, the hours we put in, what our bodies go through, we deserve some sort of (results). College football is a billion dollar industry.”
McCoy was one of 55 Yellow Jackets who signed the NCPA petition for “education, integrity and basic protections.” He had little difficulty convincing the other players to take a public stance.
“They signed it with ease,” McCoy said.
At UCLA, Bruins kicker and NFL prospect Jeff Locke enlisted 70 football players and 17 men’s basketball players — the entire roster— to sign the petition.
Locke, who like McCoy is a member of an NCPA council of active players that advises the group, emphasized that he does not see the locked box idea as paying players — the money would only go to players after their collegiate athletic careers were over; there would be no salary. The players did not put a dollar figure on what they want for the locked-box grants.
The idea is opposed by NCAA President Mark Emmert and others who cite the amateurism ideal as the backbone of college sports. Locke, however, is adamant that players must also benefit from the skyrocketing profits schools now see from renegotiated television deals, noting the Pac-12’s joint 12-year agreement with ESPN and Fox is worth $3 billion, the richest in college sports.
The petition drive comes as the NCAA Division I Board of Directors meets later this week in Indianapolis. Among the discussion topics is a proposal to allow conferences to increase the value of athletic scholarships, reducing the gap between those awards and the actual cost of going to school.
A 2010 study by Ithaca College researchers and the players’ association found that the average Division I athlete on a “full scholarship” winds up having to pay $2,951 annually in school-related expenses not covered by grants-in-aid. The shortfall represents the difference between educational expenses such as tuition, student fees, room and board and other costs not covered by scholarships, from campus parking fees to calculators and computer disks required for classes.
On Monday, Emmert told the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics in Washington that he will recommend an increase of up to $2,000 to cover the scholarship shortfall. The NCPA petition urges a $3,200 increase and a mandatory effort, not optional as Emmert suggests.
In a written statement, NCAA spokesman Bob Williams said the NCAA “redirects nearly all of its revenue to support student-athletes.”