Why an Off-the-Field Win for Student Athletes Could Mean Higher College Costs

An article by Matt Krupnick with The Hechinger Report and published on Time.com, quotes Knight Commission leadership and cites Knight Commission data in examining potential changes to college sports in the future. The Hechinger Report is a nonprofit, nonpartisan education-news outlet affiliated with Teachers College, Columbia University.

Examining the potential impact of the lawsuit filed by attorney Jeffrey Kessler on behalf of former football athlete Martin Jenkins, the article quotes Knight Commission co-chairman William Kirwan:

“I do believe that if the Kessler case wins, that could break the bank for the NCAA as we know it today,” says William Kirwan, chancellor of the University of Maryland system and co-chairman of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics. “This would become like a mini NFL draft. It would become a free market.”

The article highlights the number of programs that depend on student fees to support the athletics budget:

“Only a handful of NCAA Division I schools have self-sustaining athletics programs—just 20 of the nearly 130 schools in the top-flight Football Bowl Subdivision, for example—so most universities subsidize those departments, even in a pre-Kessler, pre-O’Bannon world. At public institutions in particular, part of that subsidy is drawn from student fees.

According to the Knight Commission, growth in athletics funding at Division I schools outpaced academic spending from 2005 to 2012. Students at some schools pay $1,000 in athletics fees alone.

Changes to how student-athletes are paid could lead some schools, stuck with nowhere else to turn, to raise other students’ fees. Universities and colleges could also scale back their athletics programs to cut costs. That “would be the rational approach,” Kirwan said. “But when it comes to college athletics, rationality doesn’t often prevail,” he said. “There are so many societal pressures.”

The article also quotes Amy Perko, the Commission’s executive director:

If the Kessler lawsuit succeeds, “The institutions that rely primarily on student fees are going to have to make a decision about whether they’re going to try to keep up,” says Amy Perko, executive director of the Knight Commission. “When you have schools with $5 million for their entire athletic budget trying to compete with schools that have $5 million coaches, it’s going to strain at some point.”

Read the complete article here: