For the past year, the welfare of intercollegiate student-athletes has been a point of contention, concern and a conversation that has grown more urgent with each passing day.
I am proud to say that the Pac-12 presidents and chancellors recognized the urgency of addressing these concerns early on. Beginning in May of this year, they reached out to their four peer conferences urging bold rather than incremental action be taken immediately.
Earlier this week, the Pac-12 led the way again by announcing a plan for moving forward with five concrete changes to benefit student-athletes. The presidents and chancellors agreed to:
• Guarantee four-year scholarship for student-athletes rather than only approve a year of scholarship at a time
• Allow student-athletes who leave school before graduation to use their scholarship moneys to pay for the education expenses associated with returning and completing their degree – given they meet all institutional requirements for re-admission, including completion of at least 50 percent of their progress toward graduation
• Cover the medical expenses for student-athletes injured while participating in intercollegiate athletics for up to four years after leaving the institution or until they reach age 26
• Allow student-athletes to transfer between institutions within the Pac-12 without penalty
• Improve student-athlete representation in conference governance
The goal of these reforms is two-fold. First and foremost, they are designed to truly address concerns about the treatment of student-athletes as directly and concretely as possible. Secondly, the reforms aim to preserve the essence of the collegiate experience, focusing on the educational component and emphasizing the “student” in student-athlete. By rejecting, the “pay for play” model urged by those who would entirely professionalize college athletics, we preserve what is best: student athletes who are students first and an economic model that will continue to allow non-revenue sports – the majority of intercollegiate athletic programs – to flourish.
The Pac-12 reform agenda is a bold and meaningful response to an environment that is demanding change. It is a model that can be widely adopted, but regardless of what other conferences do, we remain firmly committed. Nothing less than substantive reform will begin to address the concerns that have been raised recently about doing more for student-athletes.