Panel to discuss future of big-time college sports

Post by IU Newsroom intern Annie Brackemyre

College sports are big business. Amid the nationally divisive debates on paying college athletes, amateurism, academic standards, media rights and excessive spending, the financial enormity of college athletic institutions is undeniable. As a sports powerhouse, IU is no exception.

The law and public policy program at the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs will host Mark Emmert, president of the NCAA, and Fred Glass, IU athletic director, in a discussion on the future of college sports. Jayma Meyer, an IU visiting scholar of sports law, will moderate the discussion.

Mark Emmert

Mark Emmert

The panel will take place March 3 at 6:30 p.m. in the Moot Court Room, room 123, in the IU Maurer School of Law in Bloomington. The event is free and open to the public.

While the athletes are usually central in sports policy discussions, entire communities are affected by the outcomes, Meyer said.

“Sport brings together diverse groups of people in a common endeavor like no other extracurricular activity in college or activity in a community,” she said. “Just think about the movie ‘Hoosiers’ and how the tiny town of Hickory came together. Or, think about Nelson Mandela and his speech about sport having the power to change the world. Those explain it all.”

The debate over whether to pay college athletes is reignited every March as college basketball teams compete in the NCAA tournament. The tournament has become big business for the broadcasters, corporate sponsors and the NCAA. In 2012, CBS and Turner broadcasting profited over $1 billion from the tournament, due in part to a $700,000 ad rate during the Final Four and the $1.3 million rate during the championship game for a 30-second spot.

Media rights bring in money not only to the media conglomerates but the universities as well. Half of the $53 million budget for IU’s School of Global and International Studies came from IU’s Big Ten Network revenues.

Sports can have such an impact that even Pope Francis is getting in on the conversation. This October, the Vatican will host “Sports at the Service of Humanity,” a three day event examining the impact sports can have on education, health and wellness.

“This really is a public policy question because of its implications on inclusion, equality, respect and diversity,” Meyer said. “It shouldn’t be put in an athletic silo. It’s a big deal.”

IU athletics are a bit of a curveball in the traditional college sports finance debate. IU offers an impressive 24 sports, six fewer than Purdue. But with comparatively modest financing, IU has the second smallest budget, next to Rutgers, per sport in the Big Ten.

The financial challenge in Bloomington is football. Unlike most universities, IU’s biggest moneymaker is men’s basketball, not football. The other sports are nonfactors for making money.

“Our men’s basketball team makes about $11 million. Our football team makes about $4 million. And our other 22 sports together make about $200,000. That’s it. Soccer and baseball don’t move the dial,” said Glass in an interview with the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel.

Glass, trained as a lawyer, has kept IU athletics ahead of the debate on student rights. Among the anti-trust lawsuits that popped up nationwide in 2014, Glass wrote a 10-point Student-Athlete Bill of Rights. The document outlines IU’s commitment to student-athlete values such as academic and medical support. It also outlines a Hoosiers for Life program that allows student-athletes who leave IU in good standing to return to IU later in life with a guaranteed tuition scholarship.

“IU is doing it right,” Meyer said. “This is a comprehensive plan. Other schools are copycatting it now and developing similar provisions”

Beyond commercialization and paydays, Glass and Emmert will take questions on amateurism, concussions and student-athlete time demands.

“Some of these issues are real problems,” Meyer said. “Getting paid for autographs is a tiny problem. But we need to get all of it right or the structure of college sports could change dramatically with everyone worse off.”


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