CHAPEL HILL — The University of North Carolina hosted on Tuesday a three-person panel discussion entitled “Big-Time College Sports: What Needs to Change?” I couldn’t attend, unfortunately, but News & Observer columnist Luke DeCock was there, and you can read his column right here.
Though I couldn’t attend in person, I followed the panel’s discussion through Twitter and an Internet live stream via reesenews.org, which has posted the full video of the panel’s discussion right here.
The panel included Taylor Branch, a historian who wrote the widely-read magazine article entitled “The Shame of College Sports” in The Atlantic; William Friday, the UNC system president emeritus and founding co-chair of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics; and Charles Clotfelter, a Duke University professor who wrote a book entitled “Big-Time Sports in American Universities.”
For further reading about the panel’s discussion, check out this detailed story about it from The Daily Tar Heel.
I’ve culled together a few highlights of the panel’s discussion. Here goes:
--As several outlets reported, Branch early in the discussion yesterday said that some UNC athletes refused to talk to him, even in private, because of fear of retribution from their coaches. Branch has called for open discourse about ways to fix the problems in college athletics.
--Another comment that made the round on Twitter a bunch yesterday: Branch describing college athletics as another kind of slavery. Obviously, that’s a dramatic comparison but it makes sense when you consider that many college athletes don’t receive nearly what they’re worth, if you were to figure the exact dollar amount they help bring to the university.
--Lots of talk, of course, about whether athletes in revenue sports deserve to be paid. There’s no question that the football teams and men’s basketball teams at major universities generate a lot of money for their schools. A lot of that money goes right back into the athletic department (coaches’ salaries, facilities upgrades, travel budgets, etc.). As the Daily Tar Heel reported, the panelists discussed a pay-for-play model that would provide athletes with as much as a $50,000 salary.
--The panel spoke in detail about the problems that plague college athletics, and there are many of those. The discussion becomes more difficult when trying to figure solutions, though. As the panelists noted, real change begins on the university level. Don’t expect the NCAA, or the television networks, to lead change. Change must start with the universities themselves, and it must start on the trustee level.
--John Shoop, the former assistant football coach at UNC, asked a question of the panel during the Q-and-A portion. He asked the panel how UNC could have better served its football players during the NCAA investigation into impermissible benefits and academic fraud. Shoop specifically mentioned the Devon Ramsey case, in which Ramsey’s eligibility was wrongly stripped by the NCAA, until he earned his reinstatement after a legal fight.
--As Luke DeCock wrote on Twitter (@LukeDeCock) and in his column, there are donors at UNC who refuse to donate money until the university fires Chancellor Holden Thorp because he “messed with football” by firing Butch Davis.
--Luke also wrote a good summary of the panel’s discussion that you can read right here.