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Emmert: No one wants to convert student-athletes into employees

By Chip Patterson | College Football/Basketball Writer

Mark Emmert discussed the reform ahead for the NCAA on Monday at Marquette. (USATSI)
Mark Emmert discussed the reform ahead for the NCAA on Monday at Marquette. (USATSI)

NCAA president Mark Emmert knows that change is coming in the next year to the NCAA model. He said as much in the save the date-style invitations sent to school administrators this summer, and addressed many of the issues while speaking on Monday at Marquette University.

While the growing distance between the haves and the have nots is likely to be on the forefront of those discussions, Emmert indicated Monday that full player compensation, like that a full-time employee would receive, is not on the horizon in this next wave of reform.

"One thing that sets the fundamental tone is there's very few members and, virtually no university president, that thinks it's a good idea to convert student-athletes into paid employees. Literally into professionals," Emmert said. "Then you have something very different from collegiate athletics. One of the guiding principles [of the NCAA] has been that this is about students who play sports."

The growing amount of money coming into college sports from television and media rights deals has fans and critics alike pointing to the unpaid athletes as a reason to change the model. It has been suggested, more than once, that the value of an education (scholarship, room, board) is no longer equal the value football and men's basketball players, in particular, are bringing to the university.

"The most valuable [television] products are things you have to watch in real time, and that's sports and 'Dancing with the Stars,'" Emmert added. "So we're seeing an explosion in the value of sports media properties and that's injected a lot of revenue into sports. ... That's led to a lot of the discussion. This whole notion of, first and foremost, treating student-athletes in fair fashion while still maintaining the student-athlete, is at the core of all of this."

The NCAA Division I Board of Directors has approved player stipends -- set up as a cost of attendance adjustment -- twice, but each time the full D-I membership of 350 schools has overridden the decision. The divide between the schools that can and cannot afford such financial adjustments is just one of the many reasons for the reform that is expected in the next year.

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