Colleges Can Help Without an Athletes’ Union

On March 28, the New York Times published on its opinion page the following statement by Knight Commission Executive Director Amy Perko:

The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics continues to strongly promote its principle that institutions must treat college athletes as students first and foremost, not as professionals. The commission supports many of the benefits being sought for college athletes by groups like the College Athletes Players Association, but unions are not needed to guarantee those benefits. Colleges can enact proposals long recommended by the commission for colleges to restore the educational role of athletics and improve athletes’ experiences.

Practice and competition seasons have lengthened substantially. The time college athletes are required to spend on their sports needs to be reduced so they can devote more time to academics. The Big 12 commissioner, Bob Bowlsby, recently told the commission that time limits are routinely broken.

The N.C.A.A.’s governing board should add outside viewpoints, including former college athletes, to provide different perspectives on policies that should serve the best interests of athletes and college sports.

There needs to be greater transparency about the money used for athletes’ health and safety, and to directly support their educational costs.

Finally, the incentives in college sports need to change. The N.C.A.A. will divide more than a $1 billion among Division I colleges over the next six years solely based on teams’ basketball performances in this year’s March Madness tournament. It is time to stop playing for money! The increasing financial stakes for winning help coaches receive lucrative postseason bonuses but do nothing to enhance athletes’ educational experiences. There are better ways to divide these revenues and the billions now flowing through athletic conferences with the launch of the College Football Playoff.

The priority should be on directing more money toward universities’ educational and developmental purposes, and tying financial incentives to whether educational — not entertainment — outcomes are being achieved.


Read the other opinions to the question:

Should student athletes be allowed to organize and collectively bargain with their college?