By Chris Emma-
CHICAGO (CBS) — Change is coming within the world of college athletics.
It may work within the current NCAA model, or it could reconstruct an entirely new governing body. Either way, it’s inevitable.
For the players gathered in Chicago for Big Ten Media Days on Tuesday, the talk is just noise. For them, there won’t be any pay-for-play, stipends or even cost of attendance. It’s all just speculation for the next generation to strap on the pads.
“Everything takes so long,” Ohio State defensive tackle Michael Bennett said. “There’s always so many factors that you have to work into. I never really keep up with why they haven’t done this or have done this.”
Northwestern’s attempt to unionize — a revolutionary action amid a climate of inaction—seems to have accelerated the movement for alterations. At the very least, it put flaws within the NCAA’s present practice under the microscope.
Changes will take time, something universally understood within college players and coaches. It hit home for Maryland coach Randy Edsall. As a quarterback at Syracuse from 1976 through 1980, he played in just 10 regular-season games and a bowl game. The athletes’ schedule was much lighter than today, but the exchange was the same.
“You got room, board, books, tuition and fees,” Edsall said.
The NCAA has become a multi-billion-dollar business since Edsall’s playing days, with athletes’ lives even busier than before. Yet, their benefits haven’t adjusted. It’s why Edsall is a proponent for cost of attendance being included with scholarships.
“Now you have 12 regular-season games,” Edsall said. “You have a conference championship game, you could have two games to win a national championship, you’re not home for Thanksgiving, you’re not home for the summer anymore, and your scholarship is still the same — room, board, books, tuition and fees. There are all these other things we’ve asked these kids to do, and (the NCAA) hasn’t done anything to help them.”
For change to occur within the current model of college athletics, there will first be great collaboration. It could come in full cost of attendance — one of the Northwestern union’s greatest battles — or just simple stipends to reimburse the players. The undertaking of this will be detailed but significant.
Opinions on solutions vary all throughout college athletics, but the hope behind each is near unanimous.
“Everything that we can possibly do that we’d do for our sons, that’s what we want to happen,” Illinois coach Tim Beckman said.
Added Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen: “If it benefits the student-athlete and it’s fair and it’s moving in the proper direction, then I’m all for it.”
The benefit of each athlete is something coaches care about, but such a solution is buried in an NCAA that prioritizes profit first. This is the flaw at hand — one which may soon be corrected.
A scholarship is incredibly valuable, something for each athlete to cherish, but it still falls short.
“With the point of what the student-athlete is all about, I think there have to be big changes,” Edsall said.
Such resolutions for college athletes are certain, but the timetable could be lengthy. None of it will benefit this generation working in the NCAA machine. It’s nothing but noise.
“By the time something changes, it won’t be around to affect me,” Nebraska safety Corey Cooper said. “Hopefully something does change, because I feel like it’s necessary.”
Chris Emma covers the college sports scene for CBS Chicago. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.