By Ken Reed
A report this week said Stanford was fighting for the purity of amateurism in college athletics during Pac-12 discussions about the possibility of football returning this fall.
Well Stanford, that is simply precious.
According to the article:
“Stanford is vehemently committed to student-athletes retaining their amateur status. Stanford’s Jacquish & Kenninger Director of Athletics Bernard Muir in the past has threatened to take Stanford athletics in a different direction if the University’s athletes went beyond amateurism, including moving the school to another NCAA division. Muir told Congress in 2018 that if Stanford student athletes were allowed to unionize, the school ‘might opt not to compete at the level we are competing in.’”
The reality is Stanford — and other big-time college sports programs — love amateurism when it’s profitable. When certain sports aren’t profitable they don’t really care about them — or the athletes that compete in them. (Ask the athletes on Iowa’s swimming, gymnastics and tennis teams, sports that were recently chopped by Iowa’s athletic department.)
Stanford, which supposedly cares deeply about the purity of amateurism, and amateur athletes, cut 11 “minor” sports earlier this year. Stanford claimed they just couldn’t afford to sponsor the 11 sports they cut any longer despite having a $28 billion endowment.
Of course, cutting the profitable sports of football and men’s basketball wasn’t a consideration. The reason is that unlike field hockey and wrestling, two of the sports cut by Stanford, Stanford football is very profitable, and thus, is an “amateur” sport that Stanford administrators really care about.
An op-ed in the September 6, 2017 Stanford Daily nailed the situation perfectly:
In the fiscal year ending Aug. 31, 2016, the Stanford football program generated revenues of $43,744,639, according to disclosures provided to the Department of Education. The team’s expenses were $23.7 million, meaning that each of the program’s 85 scholarship football players generated $235,532.14 in profit for the athletics department. Stanford’s Office of Financial Aid calculated the school’s 2017-18 full cost of attendance to be $69,109, meaning that scholarship Cardinal players receive, in in-kind (non-cash) benefits, less than 29 percent of what they generate for the University. For young men who risk their long-term health to act, essentially, as marketers for the University, there is little room to categorize this exchange as fair.
Hey Stanford, if you’re really true believers in amateurism, quit offering athletic scholarships and go to the Division III level of college athletics, where scholarships are awarded for academic ability, not athletic ability.
I’m not holding my breath. I think the folks on The Farm enjoy the money and cheap marketing the “amateur” football players provide the university.
— 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."
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“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
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- 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