By Ken Reed
Back in May, NCAA president Mark Emmert said no students, no football.
“All of the Division I commissioners and every president that I’ve talked to is in clear agreement: If you don’t have students on campus, you don’t have student-athletes on campus.”
At the time, everyone seemed in agreement with that.
As students come back to campuses for the fall semester, Covid-19 cases are spiking. Some schools are closing campuses. But athletic departments in the SEC, ACC, Big 12, along with those at independents Notre Dame and BYU, are forging a path forward when it comes to football and other fall sports.
Could we really have college football without college? Will college athletes really be on campus while students are at home?
It’s starting to look like it. The hypocrisy of college administrators when it comes to sports seems to have no bounds.
Mary Sue Coleman, the former president of the University of Iowa and University of Michigan, says it’s unlikely that any school will be able to hold in-person classes throughout the fall. And even though she’s a huge football fan, she believes having athletes on campus practicing and playing games conflicts with the NCAA’s stated belief that being a college athlete includes being fully integrated into the student body.
The administrators in the SEC, ACC, Big 12, and at Notre Dame and BYU, are scoffing at that pollyannaish view. They don’t seem to care if students are on campus or not. Football must be played!
The University of Alabama reported 531 cases of Covid-19 on campus, six days after classes started. Nevertheless, Nick Saban and his football program plan on continuing to plow forward with their season.
This entire situation in college athletics should be the final piece of evidence presented in the case against the use of the term “student-athlete” when referring to college athletes.
The University of North Carolina’s student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel recently said enough is enough. They will no longer use the term “student-athlete” in their publication. The NCAA created the term “student-athlete” as a legal strategy in the 1950’s so courts and state industrial commissions wouldn’t view college athletes, particularly football players, as employees and to avoid having to pay hefty worker’s compensation claims when athletes got injured.
“The DTH recognizes that this identification doesn’t truthfully describe an athlete’s role on campus. That is why moving forward, the DTH will no longer use the phrase ‘student athlete’ and instead will opt for ‘college athlete,’ ‘athlete’ or ‘student’ as the context requires.
“The NCAA used the phrase ‘student athlete,’ and the reasoning behind it, to avoid paying athletes, to control their name, image and likeness rights and to deny them the ability to unionize. During that same time, these athletes didn’t really get to be students, either.”
Kudos to The Daily Tar Heel and the sharp young journalists working there.
These aren’t student-athletes. They are professionalized athletes, prevented from enjoying the benefits that come with being professionals by the NCAA, college conference commissioners, and university administrators.
In the meantime, in the SEC, ACC, and Big 12, the health and safety of these athletes is being put at risk so colleges can rake in some cash off their backs.
The hypocrisy is truly nauseating.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
- "How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- Ken Reed's Author Page on Amazon
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
A League of Fans Special Report