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SIDELINE SCENE: Next coach at UCF must recruit better locally
West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Jul. 2, 2014 4 years ago

Commentary: Guaranteed scholarships a step in right direction for college sports reform

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by: Steven Ryzewski Senior Sports Editor

For the most part, the ongoing dialogue regarding compensation for college athletes may not mean much to most local parents of prep athletes.

After all, the issues centers on money being generated by only certain schools and really just concerns the two sports that generate the most substantial amount of revenue: football and men’s basketball.

So, if your son or daughter is playing any other sport, or if your son plays football or basketball but isn’t being recruiting by a “power conference” school (see, SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12), a lot of the talk may seem like just that — talk.

Worry not, then, because I’m not going to so much get into the specifics of the debate as I’m going to highlight one of the trends that may arise from it; a trend that may benefit prospective college athletes across the board.

Most folks may not be aware that when their son or daughter is offered a scholarship, it’s usually not a four-year scholarship. Athletic scholarships are almost always one-year scholarships that are renewable after each year, a fact that can result in a rude awakening if a program decides not to renew an athlete’s scholarship.

Perhaps one of the best things to come out of this ongoing dialogue could be a fundamental shift towards schools putting their money where their mouth is when it comes to their insistence upon the ideal of the student-athlete.

If the counter-argument to paying athletes involves the idea of an education as a worthy compensation, than that education should be the priority and it should be guaranteed.

It’s an idea that has gained steamed after Indiana University athletic director Fred Glass announced his school’s plan to immediately begin guaranteeing four-year scholarships, covering the full cost of education and increasing NCAA-approved extras in addition to increased healthcare coverage for athletes.

This could be the beginning of reform in college athletics that could actually mean something and, if there is follow through, the reverberations could affect plenty of local athletes.

There is momentum for guaranteeing the scholarships to go beyond the actual playing days of the athlete; important as many athletes, especially at highly competitive programs, are often unable to handle a full class schedule given the demands of their chosen sport.

Under some proposals being considered, athletes would be able to leave school to pursue a professional career (for the few that opportunity applies to) and still have the rest of their scholarship guaranteed.

At the heart of all of this is the idea that these schools, schools that so often greatly profit off of these athletes, should at least be fully committed to them and their academics and health. If an athlete can’t continue to compete for whatever reason, the school should honor all those lofty promises and ideals its coaches likely touted during the recruitment process.

If we’re going to hold on to the ideal of the student-athlete, it should be rooted in the idea of every effort being made to ensure athletes graduate.

It’s an expensive proposal and for plenty of smaller schools it could be difficult to do. Then again, schools that may not be able provide this level of assurance to a student-athlete likely aren’t the ones raking in millions in lucrative television deals and paying their coaches skyrocketing salaries.

If a school’s athletic department is generating revenue, though, as plenty of schools are with increasing television contracts, this should be a no-brainer — and parents of aspiring youth and prep athletes should hope, and even demand, that this become the norm.

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