NCAA president Mark Emmert spoke candidly with CBS Sports' Greg Gumbel Friday at the TV network's headquarters in New York City. The interview was aired Saturday afternoon, and Emmert went into some details about his thoughts on paying college players and whether or not the entire collegiate athletic model as we know it is due to change.
Emmert said if the courts decided to give college athletes the ability to fully unionize and become paid employees of a school: "I think that's a disastrous outcome for college sports."
The topic has been amplified this week following the National Labor Relations Board's decision to allow Northwestern student-athletes union opportunities.
"The United States has some pretty clear choices," Emmert said. "Do you want to have college sports, going forward, being played by unionized employees of universities, or do you want them to be college students playing games?"
Emmert said the decisions are "pretty stark" and that it can pretty much only be one way or the other.
With each passing year it seems to be a polarizing, trying, critical time for the NCAA. That's in part because more and more audible criticism rains down on the moral question of if it's right for the NCAA and schools to bring in so much money in the name of entertainment -- while not allowing the players to be compensated.
"There's a lot of issues that have to be addressed inside the NCAA," Emmert said, adding that those issues should be tackled this summer.
The NCAA Tournament earns approximately $800 million annually in media revenue. The money there pays for the rest of the Division I, II and III sports that don't have profit ability. Emmert did say he's in favor of the cost-of-attendance stipend, which would be boost money given to athletes in the name of a scholarship. It would be an extra incentive, cash-in-hand. The $2,000 mark has been voted on before, only to be rebuked by a majority of schools after initially passing at the NCAA level.
"Everybody in the higher education world sees it as critical that we maintain the college model -- that these are students, not employees," Emmert said. "Then we also have to say, all right, well what do we need to support them, to have those student-athletes be successful as students as well as athletes, and how do we have the right balance? ... We need to, in my opinion, find a way to fill that gap so that youngsters have all of their legitimate education costs covered, and that's not the case right now."
Would going to unionization mean no more NCAA? It's entirely possible. Emmert said if student-athletes essentially became paid employees of universities it "completely blows up the whole model, and it's not clear whether anybody would want to continue the games under those circumstances."
Going forward, one change to expect: there is a new legislative board in the works that will have a representative voice for student-athletes on it. Emmert said he believes student-athletes have to have a louder voice on their own matters, and it's a point of emphasis for the NCAA to include them more directly in discussions moving forward.