clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

President Obama's 4 major concerns with the NCAA

President Barack Obama sat down with the Huffington Post for an interview, with March Madness serving as an occasion to discuss college athletics. Obama touched on four issues related to the NCAA's need for reform.


The president mentions scholarships almost immediately, saying schools should have a greater responsibility to athletes.

An immediate step that the NCAA could take -- that some conferences have already taken -- is if you offer a scholarship to a kid coming into school, that scholarship sticks, no matter what. It doesn't matter whether they get cut, it doesn't matter whether they get hurt. You are now entering into a bargain and responsible for them.

Power conferences have begun offering four-year scholarships instead of the one-year scholarships that were used in the past. It's unclear how much of a difference that will actually make for players.

Health care

Health insurance was one of the major talking points for Northwestern players while attempting to unionize in 2014. The NCAA's begun taking injury care more seriously. That includes new rules meant to limit concussions, amid legal battles.

'You've got to make sure that if they get injured while they're playing that they're covered,' the president said. He added that schools need to acknowledge that, for the vast majority of players, college isn't a stopover on the way to a lucrative pro career.

'I do think that recognizing that the majority of these student athletes are not going to end up playing professional ball -- this isn't just a farm system for the NBA or the NFL -- means that the universities have more responsibilities than right now they're showing,' Obama said.


Obama noted the inequality of everyone but the athletes taking in the spoils of college athletics as a big business, especially since it's the athletes who are most bound by NCAA rules.

What does frustrate me is where I see coaches getting paid millions of dollars, athletic directors getting paid millions of dollars, the NCAA making huge amounts of money, and then some kid gets a tattoo or gets a free use of a car and suddenly they're banished. That's not fair.

Paying players

In regards to compensating athletes beyond scholarships, the president was more measured. He questioned what the best method would be, if such a thing were to even happen. Athletes will likely soon be allowed to receive up to $5,000 a year from schools once the O'Bannon lawsuit wraps for good, but the debate continues.

In terms of compensation, I think the challenge would just then start being, do we really want to just create a situation where there are bidding wars? How much does a Anthony Davis get paid as opposed to somebody else? And that I do think would ruin the sense of college sports.

Earlier this year, SB Nation sister site Vox interviewed Obama on domestic and foreign policy.

SB Nation presents: Kansas shocker highlights Sunday and we look ahead to the Sweet 16