Monday, May 4, 2015

Athletics Directors: 3 Action Items to Consider Regarding Student-Athlete Compensation

As an Athletic Director and clearly a college sports enthusiast, you have been following the current debate of whether collegiate athletes should be compensated for their athletic abilities. As an undergraduate in the Northwestern Medill Integrated Marketing Communications(IMC) program and a student athlete, I have found two articles that address both sides of the spectrum.

Stephen L. Carter  critically breaks down opposing viewpoints as to why or why not collegiate athletes should be compensated for their athletic abilities in his article titled “College Athletes Need Pay, Not Perks”. He does not necessarily agreed with calling the plight of today’s student athlete an exploitation, but rather the colleges and NCAA are taking advantage of these athletes. Because the NCAA is a nonprofit organization, he compares nonprofit employees to collegiate athletes. Now although these workers receive a lesser form of payment, they actually get something financially out of the deal unlike the athletes. He also makes it known that disregarding the benefits of free tuition, room and board, and an opportunity to play at the next level should not be minimize as part of what the university offers. It is a very interesting viewpoint of the student-athlete v. the NCAA saga.
In Jake Novak’s article “Paying College Athletes will Ruin the Game,”  he explains why paying collegiate athletes is not wrong because they may deserve to be paid, but rather the value of collegiate athletics would begin to diminish in the long run. In the article, the author states that of the wealthier 50 and over males surveyed, 32% of them said they would stop following collegiate sports if the athletes were compensated. Given this demographic is not representative of society as a whole, but it is an interesting effect of what would happen if the student-athletes are paid in the future. It’s this allegiance to one’s alma mater that makes the backing of collegiate athletics so strong, and without that backing then the entire industry would slowly begin to crumble. Another interesting take on a controversial subject, especially since it plays on this idea of passion communities v. trigger ones. Events that would qualify as trigger ones would include O’Bannon v. NCAA and the unionization of the Northwestern Football Players. The passion communities are people in the blogs that represent themselves as college-purists, and would dare not to see this level of sports turn into a professional like showcase.

After reading these two articles and from my undergraduate studies in the Northwestern Medill IMC program, I have three action items you should consider in your next steps moving forward with your student-athletes, which are:

  • Educate Them: These student-athletes took a huge leap of faith when deciding to come to your university believing that you would do whatever is in your power to lead them down a successful path, so make it happen. I am not saying to just hold their hands and do everything for them, but encourage them to diversify their course schedule, to take career treks, and expose them to professions that compliment their strengths.
  • Monitor/Protect Them: Periodically check in with them via surveys or set up appointments where they openly express how beneficial the athletic department has been to them. Ensure that their safety on and off the playing field is a priority as well.
  • Challenge Them: Dare them to be great in every sense of the student-athlete concept.
  Going into my fifth year as a Northwestern University student-athlete, I see that our department has made strides in creating the most beneficial experience, which I am truly grateful for.  I also believe that making sure the student-athletes graduate with a degree that will benefit them in the real world and ensuring that they are taken care of medically are the most important issues at hand in the world of collegiate athletics today.

Hello my name is Deonte Gibson, and I am a graduating senior from Northwestern University with a BA in Communications with a certificate in Integrated Marketing Communications. In the fall of 2015, I will be enrolled in the IMC graduate program out of Medill with an open-mind and eagerness to learn about such an exciting field. The blog was inspired by my career goal to work on the marketing side of collegiate athletics, and how the pay for play phenomenon could potentially change the landscape of collegiate athletics marketing. For more content or just to chat about the ever evolving field of marketing or just about sports, my twitter handle is @deontegib_13!

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