By Steve Maugeri
The constantly-growing enterprise of college sports is in flux. For example, the debate over whether or how to pay college athletes rages on. Then there are the recent developments relating to the unionization of the football team at Northwestern University, and the recent academic transgressions at the University of North Carolina.
Dr. Jason Lanter, a psychology professor at Kutztown University, is a long-standing member of The Drake Group, an organization founded in 1999. The mission of the Drake Group is to “defend academic integrity in higher education from the corrosive aspects of commercialized college sports.” Lanter has been a member since 2004, and currently serves on the executive board. He recently finished a three-year tenure as president from 2010-2012.
“The Drake Group is an organization made up of professors and staff members from various universities across the country,” Lanter said. “The goal is to seek out and maintain academic integrity.”
Lanter believes that student-athletes at Division I schools are exploited as consumer products in how they generate millions of dollars each year for the NCAA without directly sharing in the cash revenue.
Lanter also said that the NCAA’s statistics contradict their own policy: “Athletes are working 40 plus hours per week on their athletics, when the NCAA policy is 20 hours per week,” he said.
“The only person that cannot make money off of his or her image is the student athlete,” he said. Contrary to popular belief, an athletic scholarship at a Division I school does not cover the full cost of attendance.
“Even with a full scholarship, athletes are falling two to three thousand dollars short every year with regards to basic needs,” Lanter said.
The debate on paying college athletes has become more complicated with the recent approval by the National Labor Relations Board of the Northwestern University football team to unionize.
The unionization gives student athletes at Northwestern a seat at the bargaining table and can change the entire landscape of the NCAA model. Lanter believes that if the unionization goes through, other athletes and schools could potentially use it as a precedent to unionize themselves.
The unionization only affects private schools as of now, but may expand to public institutions through state legislatures. The move may give student athletes compensation for the long hours they work.
Conversely, as student athletes are not paid at all, Lanter believes that college coaches are paid too much. According to msn.com, 38 of the 50 highest paid U.S. state employees are either college football or basketball coaches. Twenty-six of them are football coaches, while 12 are basketball coaches.
The NCAA brings in $16 billion per year, and aside from a few business expenses, do not pay any taxes due to the pretense of amateurism in their sporting events. And although most of the money goes back to the member institutions, much of it goes directly to athletic departments and does not contribute the academic mission of the college or university.
“The NCAA may tell you that a lot of the money goes back to the institutions, but a lot of it goes back to the athletics and doesn’t quite make it to the academic mission of the institution,” Lanter said.
Another ignominious transgression in college athletics is the uncovering of the fake classes scandal at the University of North Carolina. According to The Huffington Post, a UNC athlete submitted a one-paragraph essay and received an A- for the course.
“The North Carolina case is the most egregious example of pure academic dishonesty,” Lanter said. “The vast majority of people in those courses were athletes.”
He credits the Drake Group as key players in uncovering the North Carolina debacle and believes that this is only the tip of the iceberg.
“We know the end, but we don’t know the beginning.”
With these scandals and others, Lanter and the Drake Group will continue to work toward uncovering past, present, and future violations of NCAA policy.