NCAA President: 'Real Game-Changer' for Student Athletes Is an Education

March 31, 2014 - 7:23 PM

NCAA UConn Michigan St Basketball

Connecticut's Shabazz Napier, right, moves the ball around Michigan State's Travis Trice in the first half of a regional final at the NCAA college basketball tournament on Sunday, March 30, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

(CNSNews.com) – NCAA President Mark Emmert said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that the “real game-changer” for college athletes is getting an education.

“The game changer for a young person in life is that they get an education. We know that means they'll make a million dollars more than they would have otherwise. So if we're making sure that the focus is on students getting an education, graduating from a university without debt, without any burdens on them, and they go on into the world, and they're successful, because of what they learned as a student athlete and what they gained in the classroom. That's the real game-changer for them,” Emmert said.

The National Labor Relations Board ruled last week that football players at Northwestern University can unionize, thereby creating the nation’s first college athlete’s union. NRLB Regional Director Peter Sung Ohr issued a decision on March 26, saying “all grant-in-aid scholarship players for the Employer’s football team who have not exhausted their playing eligibility are ‘employees,’” adding, “I direct an immediate election this case.”

“The first week in August, the scholarship and walk-on players begin their football season with a month-long training camp, which is considered the most demanding part of the season,” the NLRB noted in its decision. The football players also “devote 20 to 25 hours per week on summer workouts before the start of training camp.”

“Even the players’ academic lives are controlled as evidenced by the fact that they are required to attend study hall if they fail to maintain a certain grade point average (GPA) in their classes. And irrespective of their GPA, all freshmen players must attend six hours of study hall each week,” the NLRB added.

Emmert dismissed the notion that the colleges are getting rich off of the NCAA revenue.

"The billions of dollars that come in (and it is a very large amount of money that universities receive for intercollegiate athletics in two sports, football and basketball) that also is what drives and pays for all of the other expenses in intercollegiate athletics," Emmert said.

"So track and field, soccer, women's volleyball, women's basketball, all of those sports are paid for by the revenue that comes in from two sports that drive all of that activity. So the notion that somehow universities are taking that money and putting it in the bank is utterly erroneous. They're using it to pay for nearly a half a million student athletes," he added.

Emmert said NCAA members "are actively engaged in looking for changes," including "increasing the size of the scholarship" to cover "full cost of attendance, which would add several thousand dollars worth of resources to all those scholarships."

"We're talking about those time constraints and can we get them to be more reasonable?" he added.