At present, little is certain except uncertainty
Whatever the end result, who will decide how the economic pie ultimately is sliced? Who will get full portions while others either get crumbs or nothing at all? Each of the three women who spoke at the October 21 U of M Tucker Center fall lecture agreed that what’s certain is the uncertainty, especially where women’s sports and non-revenue sports are concerned.
“We’re here because of our society’s insatiable appetite for college sport, and in particular college football,” stated Penn State Athletic Director Sandy Barbour. “That appetite has been monetized into billion-dollar television contracts, multi-million-dollar shoe and apparel deals, corporate names on our buildings and fields, and the philanthropic support that is the envy of most deans on campus,” not to mention coaches with seven-figure salaries.
College sport officials “have not done a very good job of educating [the public]…around all of these issues,” continued Barbour, especially on the belief that all schools are making boatloads of money. “There are probably a dozen programs
in this country across all of college athletics that either are net zero without any institutional support or actually finished the year in a surplus — 12 programs that make money and have any kind of profit.”
Nonetheless, Western New England University Law School Professor Erin Buzuvis argued, “College athletics don’t serve a lot of students.”
An “equitable environment” for both genders in college athletes must be established in any college sport reform, said Minnesota Deputy Athletics Director Beth Goetz. “I don’t think it is any secret that the landscape in college athletics is at a time where there will be a lot of changes,” she pointed out. “And we don’t know what that change will mean.”
“There are lots of questions still not answered,” said Barbour, who suggested that college presidents and athletic directors both “need to take a look at what makes sense,” such as the current cost-of-scholarship model (tuition, room and board, and books), which oftentimes does not cover all school-related expenses.
“There are a number of things that we must get done and re-fund… We must do it in fairness to our student-athletes,” she said.
Where does Title IX, the federal law that mandates athletic equality by gender, fit in all of this? Barbour predicted that some sports may get cut to ensure compliance, but Buzuvis stressed that schools should refrain from using the law as an economic football. “Title IX is not a business statute but a civil rights statute,” she explained.
The MSR asked afterwards that since Blacks are the majority in many college sport programs, are there Blacks involved in any decision-making to ensure equitable changes?
“They need to be,” responded Goetz, “and they have to be, because we need to serve all of our members. We need more diversity in our leadership here at the University of Minnesota. There’s no doubt that we need more diversity here with our leadership both in athletics and across campus.
“Whether it’s the lawsuits, the economy or the ‘Big Five’ discussions and what the ramifications of Title IX are, we need to be very in-tuned to where this industry is leaning and make sure that we are focusing on what best serves our student athletes,” Goetz concluded.
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