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Athlete-Student Compensation Story

By Brooke Bullock     8/17/12 7:00pm


After the recent Pennsylvania State University case, the NCAA has been prominent topic of discussion, and Rice Director of Athletics Rick Greenspan has been no exception. 

"This country has had a love affair with sports for a long time," Director of Athletics Rick Greenspan said. 

Greenspan said that the public's trust in the NCAA has eroded - to an extent. According to Greenspan, he sees a shift in the NCAA to pass more stringent punishments for infractions. While this may help to encourage rule following, Greenspan also sees the current growth in NCAA revenue from post-season football and basketball as an opportunity to reinforce integrity and academic success by adding funds to scholarships or academic support systems for athletes. 

Current NCAA revenue, derived mainly from post-season basketball and football, largely rewards competitive success, Greenspan said. The Bowl Championship Series alone earned around $170 million last year, he said. He added that future the BCS system is expected to earn $600 million. He described the practice of rewarding competitive success through such bowl systems in business related terms. 

"If you look at it in the real world, people are paid to perform a job, and those who perform above the norm are given bonuses," Greenspan said. 

Greenspan suggested a shift in revenue distribution to put a greater emphasis on integrity, in terms of following the NCAA rules, and academics. The current increase in revenue offers a good opportunity to try such a shift, he said. In a perfect world, schools would not need to be rewarded for following the rules, but that is not the case, Greenspan said. According to him, he tide has swept too much in favor of competitive success. 

Jones College senior Richard Ledo said that if universities were rewarded for following the rules, more would do it. Ledo, a retired Rice football player, said that any kind of academic reward would push all the athletes to be better, both as an athlete and as a student. 

"The title we have is student athlete," Ledo said. "If we were just athletes, we'd be in the pros."

Greenspan said that the line between student athletes and the professionals has been graying, leading some to say that what is done in the NFL should be done in college. 

"We are dealing in a much more holistic way with young people trying to get a world class degree," Greenspan said. 

The NCAA should recognize the difficult schedule student athletes are working with and reward those entities that try and help them balance their athletic careers and academic ones - especially at Rice where there is a high expectation level in both athletics and academics, Greenspan said. 

Baker College junior Brandon Hautt said he is not sure that a change like Greenspan is proposing would be possible. 

"I don't really see what could be done with the way the system is," Hautt said. "I just don't see them [the NCAA] doing that."

The NCAA does not seem like the appropriate entity to reward academic success, Jones College sophomore Leah Cabrera said. 

"I'm not sure it's their place to do that," Cabrera said. 

Instead, Cabrera said that the university should be the area that handles academic rewards. 

Greenspan said that the issue of academic success and integrity not being rewarded is near and dear to the hearts of Rice athletics. The NCAA revenue distribution is critical to Rice's athletics program, he said. 

"If something is rewarded, it is enforced," Greenspan said. "There is a time and commitment of people, power and facilities that can be reinforced with rewards."

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