by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Anthony Hennen of the Martin Center devotes a column to reform of collegiate athletics.
The public has lost faith in the NCAA and colleges to protect student-athletes. When surveying the numerous ideas for fixing college sports, it’s hard to make any other conclusion. Reform is by insiders and outsiders alike—even if it doesn’t happen.
Demands for college athletics reform, however, aren’t rare in the history of college sports. A college reform movement has existed for decades. Even if the NCAA loses public trust, that doesn’t mean change will happen.
In looking at the demands of athletics reformers, two themes appear again and again: the governance problem and protecting the well-being of student-athletes.
As Fritz Polite, the past president of the reform-minded Drake Group told the Martin Center, “Our focus is primarily on the well-being of the students. Someone, someone has to be the voice. Someone has to stand up and protect those students. If we don’t do it, who’s gonna do it?”
The governance issue is that influence and power over college sports remain in the hands of coaches, college presidents, and boards of trustees—to the exclusion of faculty and the student-athletes themselves. The faculty don’t have enough influence over the athletics department to safeguard academic standards or guarantee that the players are students as much as athletes. And the athletes, at the mercy of coaches who dictate scholarships and playing time, cannot self-advocate for their health, academic interests, or limiting time demands.
With college sports being a billion-dollar business, the well-being of student-athletes becomes a secondary concern. Student-athletes face health threats, including death, and academic threats to earning a degree and having a stable economic future.