Interest group looks to cap spending for college athletics

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Posted: Wednesday, October 23, 2013 12:05 am

A network of academics from across the country is attempting to legally challenge athletics’ role at college campuses, but officials at N.C. State disagree with its plan of action.

The Drake Group announced earlier this month that they are pursuing federal legislation to restructure the NCAA and what it emphasizes. 

“[We want to turn the NCAA] back into something more academic oriented, rather than just going all out professional,” said Allen Sack, a member of the Drake Group and business professor at the University of New Haven in an interview with Inside Higher Ed. 

Members of the Drake Group also said they want to cap spending for NCAA athletic programs and redirect more sports-related income toward medical and academic benefits for student athletes. 

Although there is the notion that athletic programs haul in huge profits every year, which could make some of the Drake Group’s ideas possible, the University only made an $800,000 surplus last year from a budget of about $60 million, according to Director of Athletics Debbie Yow. 

“There was not some large pot of money left,” Yow said. “You could point out a number of programs that amass millions of dollars, maybe Texas or Florida, but I think there are more programs that look like N.C. State where we put money back into the Olympic sports.”

Yow said, because only basketball and football are revenue-producing sports, the money they produce is used to fund the other programs and scholarships. 

According to Inside Higher Ed, the Drake Group also wants to create a Board of Directors that could cap coaching staff sizes and income, sport expenditures, scholarships and other aspects that deal with spending. 

Samuel Pardue, interim associate dean and director of CALS and a faculty athletics representative for N.C. State, found problems with the group’s proposal, especially its intent to limit coaching salaries.

Pardue, who advises Chancellor Randy Woodson about the “interface between athletics and academics,” also chairs the N.C. State Athletics Council.

“One of things I find odd about the proposal is that they want a cap on coaches’ salaries on all levels,” Pardue said. “The Supreme Court is going to strike that down…you cannot prohibit what someone can make in a legitimate enterprise. For example, you can’t say, ‘well you’re a cardiac surgeon, so you should make twice as much as someone else in the hospital.’”

Pardue also said many of the members of the Drake Group don’t come from institutions with strong academic or athletic backgrounds. Two of the three authors writing the proposed legislation come from the Vermont Law School and Smith College, according to Pardue and the group’s website.

“The bulk of their membership appears to come from institutions that aren’t involved in athletics, at least not on a national scene,” Pardue said. “I would argue that those from institutions, like Stanford, which has some of the best and brightest people in the world and that compete very well in the athletic realm should be a part of this discussion too. They may be well intended, but I’m not sure they represent institutions that are in the national scene athletically or academically.”

The legislation could also restrict the number of sports events, the length of seasons and could limit games to weekends on academic holidays. 

According to Pardue this aspect of the legislation has the potential to limit athletics, or a “common denominator,” among N.C. State students, faculty and fans.

“We used to joke that N.C. State was a group of colleges united by a common athletics department…It’s somewhat of the front porch of the University, and it’s the first thing people see,” Pardue said. “I think it’s fundamental and a common denominator that binds the University together.”