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The welfare and development of today’s student-athlete is central to the
administration of Big Ten Conference intercollegiate athletics. Providing
opportunity for young men and women to mature in a wholesome and healthy way is
critically important to our universities. A commitment exists at all levels of
our universities to providing the resources to support the welfare of Big Ten
student-athletes. At the 1996 NCAA Convention, the Division I membership debated
a number of issues related to financial assistance for student-athletes.

Limitations on Pell Grants, stipends awarded by the federal government for
educational purposes, were removed. Discussions took place, and continue to
occur, on ways to liberalize rules on how student-athletes can earn money from
work done during the off-season. Around the same time, the NCAA Executive
Committee increased the annual funding of the special assistance fund from $3
million to $10 million. Big Ten institutions provide more than 6,400 young men
and women opportunities to play on 250 intercollegiate teams. These young people
receive more than $42 million annually from Big Ten institutions in
grants-in-aid (tuition, room and board, books). While receiving the opportunity
for a world-class education, they compete with and against some of the finest
amateur athletes in the country. Needy student-athletes in the Big Ten may
receive up to $2,000 annually above the value of their grant-in-aid via federal
aid and are eligible for cash payments from the special assistance fund for
items like clothing, emergency trips home and other special needs. Big Ten
universities also assist student-athletes in identifying summer employment
opportunities, career placement and catastrophic-injury insurance plans. They
also assist with a $1 million insurance plan that financially protects
student-athletes with professional sports aspirations in the event they suffer a
disabling injury. Today, the system that served so many so well and for so long
is being called into question by the media, the public and even by some coaches
and student-athletes. They assert that some student-athletes in football and
basketball should be paid for their participation. They believe that the market
forces that drive professional sports, or any other private-sector activity,
should provide the controlling principle for the relationship between the
student-athlete and the university. This issue of financial assistance for
student-athletes is critical to defining and examining the relationship between
intercollegiate athletics and higher education as we approach the 21st century.

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While we must be open to novel approaches and new ideas, paying student-athletes
to play is not supportable within the context of Big Ten intercollegiate
athletics — now or in the future. In my view, revenues derived from
intercollegiate athletics are the sole property of the institution and should be
expended in support of the broadest array of men’s and women’s educational and
athletics opportunities. Thus, revenues are earned in private-sector activity
and spent within the confines of the university for appropriate educational
purposes. Some critics of college athletics cite the economic and educational
exploitation of the student-athletes who participate in our major revenue sports
as a major flaw in the system. We believe the educational and the lifetime
economic benefits associated with a university education are the appropriate
quid pro quo for any Big Ten student-athlete, regardless of the sport. For many
decades, Big Ten intercollegiate athletics has been funded largely by revenues
from men’s basketball and football programs. This situation is not likely to
change in the foreseeable future. Our institutions have sponsored sports
programs that enabled outstanding athletes such as Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas,
Red Grange, Archie Griffin, John Havlicek and Dick Butkus (the list is endless)
to obtain an education and play their sport, in turn providing resources for
educational and athletics opportunities for such people as Suzy Favor, Jesse
Owens, Mark Spitz and Jack Nicklaus. Under this system, people like John Wooden
and Gerald Ford played alongside student-athletes much less famous, but equally
deserving of an intercollegiate athletics experience. Intercollegiate athletics
has provided, and will continue to provide, opportunities for social mobility
through education for future generations of young men and women. We must ensure
that all young people admitted to our universities are prepared to compete
academically so that the overall student-athlete academic outcomes are
compatible with their peers within the general student population. Recent
efforts to raise NCAA initial-eligibility standards are attempts to counter the
argument that unprepared student-athletes are being admitted and then exploited
for their athletics contributions. About seven million fans annually attend Big
Ten men’s basketball and football events and more than 300 million Americans
watch these sports on television. Ticket and television revenues derived from
those sources are shared among our members so that each university can sponsor
the most broadly based, nationally competitive sporting opportunities in the
country. Federal law requires equity of opportunity; fairness and common sense
compel the same result. While the source of program revenues will continue to be
predominantly men’s basketball and football, the expenditure of these revenues
will continue to support multiple and varied educational and sporting
opportunities for young men and women student-athletes. We should not object if
young athletes prefer to go directly from high school to the NBA, NFL, NHL or
some international version of professional sports. If they choose to attend a
university for a year or several years, we should not attempt to restrain them
from moving into professional leagues. In fact, after making the best possible
case for the value of an education, we should eliminate any and all obstacles to
such access. In short, the college community should provide educational and
athletics opportunities, then get out of the way so those talented individuals
interested in pursuing their sport on a professional basis can do so. While
acknowledging the commercial activity attendant to the presentation of some of
our sports activities, we do not similarly accept the premise that our athletes
are professionals. Ours is a unique system that has fostered social and
educational good by supporting a broad array of opportunities for thousands of
young men and women. Additionally, if forced to decide between adopting or
adapting to the professional model, I am confident our institutions would forgo
the revenues and take steps necessary to downsize the scope, breadth and
activity of these historically vibrant programs. While these decisions would be
difficult and sad, this would be the ultimate choice of the presidents, faculty
and board of trustees of Big Ten presidents. Whatever marketplace arguments may
exist on behalf of pay-for-play, they are far outweighed by the athletics and
educational value of the experience provided by our institutions in the name of
intercollegiate athletics. A news story in the February 8, 1896, edition of the
Chicago Daily Tribune reported that a faculty representative meeting of the
Western Conference (the former name of the Big Ten) was scheduled to discuss
“a firm stand for purity in athletics and eradication of
professionalism….” While the pay-for-play issue affects only a minority
of student-athletes in the Big Ten, its ultimate resolution will lay the
foundation for the 21st century paradigm for intercollegiate athletics, just as
its resolution in the late 19th century laid the foundation for the 20th century


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