The debate around collegiate amateurism has taken some swift turns as of late, with increasingly frequent revelations about athletes accepting improper benefits meeting increasingly tepid responses. It's not that it's not important that Arian Foster says he took money and tacos, or that there's a paper trail of cash leading to D.J. Fluker or that Sports Illustrated had such wide-ranging allegations against Oklahoma State. It's that fans are having an increasingly tough time mustering up a strong opinion about the situation.
A group that is having no such difficulty in slamming the tide of discourse, however, are Division I athletic directors, who have just released an extraordinary statement condemning any "pay-for-play" talk.
At the Division 1A AD's meeting this week, a record turnout of 120 members of the Division 1A Athletic Directors' Association were on hand and they are in accordance in their belief that a unified voice is necessary to articulate their support of the primary mission of intercollegiate athletics: a world-class education and a quality athletic experience for talented student-athletes.
"As a group, the athletics directors are engaged in developing recommendations that will improve the governance and operation of intercollegiate athletics," said Morgan Burke, president of the Division 1A Athletic Directors' Association and athletics director at Purdue University.
Burke and Mike Alden, president of NACDA and athletics director at the University of Missouri, will serve as national spokesmen for all 351 Division I programs.
Discussions included topics ranging from NCAA governance and enforcement to the disparity of interests and resources among Division I schools to the rejection of the "pay-for-play" model.
While recent reports have chronicled the ineffective NCAA governance and enforcement systems, the Division 1A athletics directors have pledged to be active participants in the process to bring about change, calling for streamlining and efforts that complement and align with the values of higher education.
"While our jobs keep our focus on the daily issues of athletics on our campuses, we recognize that we are best positioned to implement realistic changes in the governance and administration of athletics," Alden said. "As stewards of the enterprise, we are committed to providing meaningful, realistic and impactful leadership in defining a bright future for intercollegiate athletics."
Realizing that differences exist among the 351 Division I programs, Burke said, "Changes need to reflect such variances, while preserving and building upon areas of common interest."
The athletics directors are chiefly concerned with public dialogue that does not accurately reflect the true value of intercollegiate athletics to student-athletes.
"Pay for play has no part in the amateur setting," Burke said, noting that the value of a full scholarship and direct support services at Purdue has a value in excess of $250,000. Plus, student-athletes with a full scholarship have no loan to pay back, an expense that could run upwards of $200,000 at Purdue.
Furthermore, integrity issues need to be handled effectively in the enforcement system, which is presently under review. "Institutions must clearly understand the meaning of institutional control and must reinforce integrity as a core value," Burke said.
Alden pointed out that athletics directors have been hired by the university presidents to lead their campus organizations and are important stakeholders in the national governance system. "We have been entrusted with the responsibility to provide a quality academic and athletic experience for our student-athletes on campus," he said.
Details are being finalized for Burke and Alden to be available via a teleconference in the near future to further discuss the information above. Teleconference information will be made available once the date and time has been confirmed.
Some ADs, like Iowa State's, also took the argument to Twitter:
Ask a student body member with thousands of dollars of debt at graduation how they feel about a student-athlete saying they should be paid?— Jamie Pollard (@IASTATEAD) September 25, 2013
Though the statement is a public display of solidarity, it's worth noting that there is some private dissension on the matter. As the Chronicle of Higher Education notes, nearly a dozen high-level administrators have said they're willing to explore trust funds for the athletes for after graduation. The funds would, in theory, confer monetary and academic benefits onto the graduating athletes so as to reward them, but only after their eligibility expired.
Further, athletic directors' financial interests are necessarily impacted by the prospect of paying their players. Not only is it a matter of money going directly to the athletes, but it opens up larger questions of liability and worker's compensation if the student-athletes' relationship with the university becomes more like that of employees. So for any talk of what factor has what place in amateurism, remember that there is a great deal of money at stake in this discussion.