Skip to content

Mark Emmert on paying athletes: ‘If you’re going to come to us, you’re going to be a student’

Sep 17, 2013, 11:13 AM EDT

Mark Emmert AP

There may not be a more contentious debate in all of college athletics than whether or not the players that generate so many billions of dollars in revenue should receive a larger cut of those profits.

Conferences are signing billion-dollar deals for the rights to broadcast their games. The NCAA tournament is responsible for generating roughly three-quarters of the organization’s annual revenue. Every “scandal” involving college athletics that breaks further proves that these athletes have value; that there are people willing to spend their hard-earned money on these athletes.

Maybe it’s the $500 handshakes that football players were getting at Oklahoma State. Or maybe it’s the money that agents were willing to spend on players like Alabama lineman DJ Fluker or Kansas shooting guard Ben McLemore to ensure that they would become a client when they graduated. Or maybe it’s the thousands of dollars that Johnny Manziel was able to pocket simply by signing his name on a bunch of helmets.

Whatever the case may be, it’s becoming more and more difficult to justify the idea that the best athletes in revenue sports are getting a fair deal being limited to a college scholarship.

But according to NCAA president Mark Emmert, it’s unlikely that will change any time soon.

”One thing that sets the fundamental tone is there’s very few members and, virtually no university president, that thinks it’s a good idea to convert student-athletes into paid employees. Literally into professionals,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said Monday at Marquette University as part of the school’s ‘On the Issues’ forum. ”Then you have something very different from collegiate athletics. One of the guiding principles (of the NCAA) has been that this is about students who play sports.”

Emmert also questioned why an athlete that wants to be a professional would bother going to college.

”It’s a dynamic tension that we really need to work on because it’s at heart of part of what talking about here,” he said. “Why would we want to force someone to go to school when they really don’t want to be there? But if you’re going to come to us, you’re going to be a student.”

Why would an athlete want to play in college?

Well, quite simply, because the best way for a prodigy to make their way to the NBA is through the NCAA. Going straight to the D-League doesn’t get these kids the kind of exposure that college basketball does. The same can be said for Europe.

The bottom-line is that this a pitch that Emmert is going to have to continue to sell, because there are so many administrators like him that cash six and seven figure checks thanks to amateurism keeping the money flowing. The NCAA doesn’t pay taxes and puts severe limits on the amount that the people generating the revenue can bring in (a scholarship isn’t enough, but it is reimbursement). If that changes, if there is less money to go around, the cuts have to come from somewhere.

And I’d be willing to bet that Emmert, and the people that made Emmert the (handsomely-paid) face of their organization don’t want to see their bottom-line affected.

Latest Posts
  1. Former Nevada forward Cole Huff free to transfer to non-Mountain West schools in southern California

    Apr 17, 2014, 9:40 PM EDT

    huff AP

    The number of schools that former Nevada forward Cole Huff is prohibited from transferring to has been cut down to 38 following an appeals hearing Thursday.

  2. Cincinnati, Creighton among eight teams in inaugural Emerald Coast Classic

    Apr 17, 2014, 9:07 PM EDT

    cronin AP

    NCAA tournament participants Cincinnati, Creighton and North Carolina Central part of eight-team field in inaugural Emerald Coast Classic.

  3. Order of protection filed against former Missouri F Zach Price thrown out

    Apr 17, 2014, 8:16 PM EDT

    Missouri_Tigers

    The order of protection filed against former Missouri forward Zach Price by Earnest Ross was thrown out Thursday.

  4. Green Bay, head coach Brian Wardle agree to new five-year contract

    Apr 17, 2014, 7:17 PM EDT

    wardle AP

    After leading Green Bay to a 24-win season, head coach Brian Wardle’s been rewarded with a new five-year contract.

  5. Gonzaga adds forward Domantas Sabonis to solid 2014 recruiting haul

    Apr 17, 2014, 5:56 PM EDT

    Mark Few AP

    Gonzaga’s added a fourth member to its 2014 recruiting class, with the son of Hall of Famer Arvydas Sabonis making his pledge to join the program.

  6. Houston duo still looking to be released from respective scholarships

    Apr 17, 2014, 5:06 PM EDT

    TaShawn Thomas AP

    Former Houston players Danuel House and TaShawn Thomas met with an appeals committee Thursday in hopes of getting released from their respective scholarships.

  7. Report: Rodney Hood to enter the NBA Draft

    Apr 17, 2014, 4:19 PM EDT

    Rodney Hood Getty Images

    Rodney Hood is following Jabari Parker to the league.

  8. Reports: Missouri’s Frank Haith agrees to take the Tulsa job

    Apr 17, 2014, 4:03 PM EDT

    haith AP

    Is Frank Haith getting out of Missouri before they kick him out?

  9. Kentucky’s James Young to enter the NBA Draft

    Apr 17, 2014, 3:25 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Kentucky is still waiting to hear from four players on their NBA decision.

  10. Report: Jordan Adams to return to UCLA

    Apr 17, 2014, 2:33 PM EDT

    Jordan Adams

    UCLA will be a contender in the Pac-12 next season with Jordan Adams returning to school.

  11. Are the Harrison twins leaning towards returning to school?

    Apr 17, 2014, 1:45 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    With less than stellar reviews from NBA folks, might the Harrisons be leaning towards a return to Lexington?

  12. Jabari Parker is headed to the NBA

    Apr 17, 2014, 12:35 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Parker will be a top three pick in the draft.

  13. Former Murray State guard Zay Jackson headed to Southeastern Louisiana

    Apr 17, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Jacksons path from Murray State to Southeastern Louisiana is wild.

  14. Ahmed Hill released from his National Letter of Intent to Marquette

    Apr 17, 2014, 11:43 AM EDT

    Kelly Kline/Under Armour Kelly Kline/Under Armour

    Hill wrote a nice note to Marquette fans to thank them.

  15. #UMassUnited: Thousands show to support Derrick Gordon during Westboro Baptist Church protest

    Apr 17, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT

    Photo via MassLive.com Photo via MassLive.com

    Five protesters from the Westboro Baptist Church showed up at UMass on Wednesday. 1,500 students rallied in response.

  16. Michigan guard Caris LeVert to return for junior season

    Apr 16, 2014, 10:59 PM EDT

    levert Getty Images

    Caris LeVert reiterated his decision to return to Michigan for his junior year at the team’s postseason banquet Wednesday.

  17. Report: New Mexico State’s Sim Bhullar to enter 2014 NBA Draft

    Apr 16, 2014, 8:57 PM EDT

    Sim Bhullar, Barndon Ashley AP

    According to a report, New Mexico State center Sim Bhullar will forego his final two seasons of eligibility to turn pro.

  18. USC guard Byron Wesley to transfer for final season of eligibility

    Apr 16, 2014, 8:24 PM EDT

    Byron Wesley, Jarett Upchurch AP

    After leading USC in scoring last season, Byron Wesley announced that he’ll be transferring after graduating this summer.

  19. Arizona State guard Jahii Carson officially entering NBA Draft

    Apr 16, 2014, 7:25 PM EDT

    carson AP

    Arizona State’s Jahii Carson made official the news that’s been known since October: he’ll be entering the 2014 NBA Draft.

  20. Former Northwestern wing Kale Abrahamson transferring to Drake

    Apr 16, 2014, 6:32 PM EDT

    Kale Abrahamson AP

    Former Northwestern guard/forward Kale Abrahamson will finish out his career in his home state.

Featured video

Derrick Gordon says 'Why not me?'