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The need for reform in collegiate sports

It boosted their GPAs and kept them eligible to play. In a new book, Kenneth L. Shropshire and Collin D. Shropshire is the CEO of the Global Sport Institute, and Wharton professor emeritus of legal studies and business ethics, and Williams is the director of leadership and education programs for the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality. How to Fix College Sports. An edited transcript of the conversation follows. Collin, I understand the idea for this book came out of your dissertation here at the University of Pennsylvania.

What was it like to go to college and also be playing a sport at the second-highest tier possible in the United States? The conversation always began with time. It was impossible for most of them to do both, to be a student and to be an athlete. The time commitment had grown so much.

The sports have become so big that the 40 to 50 hours a week that they spend on sports just did not allow them enough time to be dedicated students and engage in other purposeful activities on campus. When you hear the comments of Josh Rosen, what is your reaction? My reaction is, how do we have this honest conversation? We are promising student athletes a free education in exchange for the time and commitment that they dedicate to their sports.

However, the very nature of the commitment does not allow them to be students fully. How do we be honest about that, first, and then reform the system to make sure they can do both in the times that they spend on their respective campuses? Can college sports be fixed? Not in your or my lifetime. Our primary purpose is to redirect the conversation, to refocus it on a path that the need for reform in collegiate sports serve to fix it.

That gets away from the conversation about paying athletes, which is perfectly fine. It gets away from the conversation about whether people are spending too much money on facilities and that sort of thing. That is not the conversation. The conversation we need to have is, how do we ensure that these men and women who participate in college sports go on to have the best lives possible after investing this amount of time and energy into this activity?

Is it fair to say that there is a difference between the revenue-generating sports and the non-revenue generating sports in terms of the athlete being able to handle both? I think for the most part, at the highest level, if you look at places that have won the Learfield or Sears trophy, Stanford, you win the most national championships in all of these sports.

These athletes are dedicated around the clock, year-round to their sport. The only difference is the amount of dollars that they bring into the university. You can have a different philosophical conversation about allocation of resources and the like, but in terms of the time commitment, if you are a tennis player, if you are a lacrosse player, if you are a gymnast, you put in tremendous amounts of time.

And none of these sports are seasonal anymore. You find time to do it on your own. The time commitment is consistent across all divisions. I think the point that sometimes gets lost is the outcomes.

When we disaggregate the data based upon division and sport, we see that in certain places the outcomes are different. And they often have life satisfaction ratings that are higher than their non-sport peers. The difference is that for a lot of the Division I athletes, particularly in revenue-generating sports, the outcomes are not as ideal.

  1. One thing that practically all of them mentioned was the lack of ability to have an internship. The current reform movement seeks to address areas that are serious threats to the integrity of college athletics and is committed to the success of student-athletes on the playing field, in the classroom and in life after college.
  2. This is the first time we saw somebody off on their own.
  3. Change is never easy, but the simple truth is that these steps are necessary to protect the integrity of college athletics and the future success of our student-athletes. How to Fix College Sports.

These young men and women are coming into an unfamiliar setting and adapting to college life. Knowledge Wharton High School Williams: While a traditional student spends time researching and looking for schools and doing campus visits, a lot of the recruited athletes have folks coming to their homes and selling college to them. That makes it incredibly impactful.

That makes a huge difference upon the ways in which they view the school space and how they think about their roles and identities, of whether or not they are students first or athletes first. It also impacts how the folks on their campuses view them, including their peers, their professors, faculty and the like. We were all together one day and saw another one of our recruits with a group of white students coming out of class. This is the first time we saw somebody off on their own.

He was coming out of a sociology class. Do you integrate into the rest of the campus or not? Who has the responsibility of helping these athletes acclimate to college life? Does that fall on the university, the coaches? We are pretty clear that it takes everybody to refocus this.

How to Reform College Sports to Prioritize Learning

There are certainly those who have more power than others. In the book we talk about the sports power matrix. We began to see them wield some of this power with unionization and other activities over the past couple of years. There needs to be a real focus on making this change.

As is so often the case with social movements, it may not be for them, but it could be for the future if the change begins. We also have to add others in the need for reform in collegiate sports ecosystem that goes down to the family, that goes down to the communities that these young men and women are coming from.

Even to the media and the way they tell the stories. They are the folks that have the power to talk about athletes and what their stories are like.

We need to talk about these stories more and really talk about where these folks are coming from and the struggles that they face. Because it really does take the village. There is no way for us to say that we can just put the entire onus of reform on another institution or just on the NCAA. The need for reform in collegiate sports takes every stakeholder who says they care about student athletes and what happens to them after sports to really step up and do this together.

There are some studies that show academic performance tends to be higher in [a sports] season, that there is a greater success in season, which is in some senses counterintuitive. But that also points to the organization that has to take place in order to be successful, and how specific amounts of time are devoted to study. They typically graduate at lower rates when they have that setback. Because a lot of what comes in the learning at school, and the sense of belonging in terms of the education literature, is their engagement in the non-sport activities.

When you have a job, the things you are not able to do — such as being a part of student government, studying abroad, having an internship or being a part of any extracurricular activity — those tend to increase the rates at which students graduate and perform. They are now tied to the school beyond just a classroom or a sport setting.

It means more to them to do well because they are connected in a number of ways to the university. Should the NCAA bear the brunt of responsibility on these issues that need to be dealt with? But I think as the folks who are most visible, as the folks who have taken up the onus to ensure fairness and safety in intercollegiate athletics, they have to reprioritize at times. One of the major issues is that a disproportionate amount of the attention has been on impermissible benefits and defending amateurism, and looking at the money that they may be missing out on — that side of it as opposed to the education.

I really think the conversation starts with the NCAA putting education at the forefront and having the decisions that they make indicate that. People who are late to the party are those who are most likely to criticize the NCAA without setting forth a path to success, a path to change.

The NCAA sits there sort of like the government. It is a monolith. I think we lose a lot of energy criticizing and focusing in on the NCAA rather than presenting changes we need to make in whatever way they can be made.

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  1. When you hear the comments of Josh Rosen, what is your reaction?
  2. The current reform movement seeks to address areas that are serious threats to the integrity of college athletics and is committed to the success of student-athletes on the playing field, in the classroom and in life after college. That is not the conversation.
  3. The conversation always began with time. Does that fall on the university, the coaches?

A lot of student athletes are probably working towards their craft during the summer if they think they are going to be a professional athlete. But so many of them are not going to be, and that two-month window is a great opportunity to take more classes or work an internship. I think what informed that is the response that I got from student athletes.

In my dissertation, I spoke to 40 men across all five power conferences at 20 different institutions. One thing that practically all of them mentioned was the lack of ability to have an internship.

When we think about the different roles and identities that they have, there is an immense amount of hours spent on developing the athletic craft. They have to spend some time within the classroom. But when we get back to this issue of not having enough time, some of those guys have never been in a professional work environment.

Not a job shadow, not an internship for a couple of weeks. Ken, you also talk about really enforcing the hour restrictions that athletes are supposed to have as a key ingredient as well. Of all of the recommendations we make, this is probably the most difficult one. The idea of regulating precisely how much time the institution requires you to participate in practice is not even done very well. But that goes back to the whole counseling phase. That goes back to using the 24th hour of the day at least to think about your future, to think about your career beyond sports.

That has been a problem for quite some time. Just look at the paper-classes scandal at the University of North Carolina. That one is pretty self explanatory, right? That starts even before college.