The future of college athletics, according to Medill

As college sports eat away at school budgets and gather ever-increasing support from millions of alumni, fans and critics alike are asking: where will collegiate athletics be 10, 20, even 30 years from now?

On Friday, a few acclaimed panelists from different sports backgrounds, all but one former Wildcats, discussed this huge uncertainty. The Medill-hosted “College Sports: What’s Right, What’s Wrong and What the Future Should Look Like,” featured alumni J.A. Adande (BSJ92), Christine Brennan (BSJ80, MSJ81), Steve Weissman (BSJ01), and LZ Granderson, with ESPN Producer Willie Weinbaum (BSJ82, MSJ83) moderating the conversation. Topics of conversation ranged from the newly formed APU movement, to the general corruption and scandals that have recently headlined sports news.

With the game of football on the minds of everyone present, the APU movement and college football in general took the majority of the conversation. Standing for “All Players United,” the campaign was founded by current players serving on the Players Council for the National College Players Association (NCPA), an advocacy group created by former UCLA football player Ramogi Huma. Huma decided to start the initiative when he saw his All-American teammate be suspended for accepting a bag of groceries when he had an empty refrigerator and his scholarship money had run out. APU parallels much of the NFLPA (NFL Players Association) in that both want more money for their players, concussion reform, and more player protection.

When asked about the general movement and for their opinions on the power of players, panelist J.A. Adande was pro-APU. In his arguments he sided with players, saying he would “love to see the awareness and the movement to galvanize.” The other three panel members seemed to favor the movement as well, but didn’t go as far as Adande, who said he would cheer on players to protest bowl games and other events until they received their demands.

 Granderson, Weissman and Brennan were opposed to the idea of paying college players. Brennan reasoned that if you pay the football players, who are generally receiving the most attention and coverage, you have to pay all college athletes. In turn this would bankrupt universities and deteriorate the entire college sports world. Adande countered by favoring the idea that the players, being in a large moneymaking industry, deserve to be paid. He proposed the idea of a free market in which companies could find an athlete to promote their product. For example, Evanston Chrysler Jeep could have Kain Colter in their advertisements and in that way he could make a little extra money. Weissman contested that a college education in itself is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and saves families fortunes when their children get “full rides” to play sports at the collegiate level.

Despite the unknown future of college sports, panelists agreed the sports world isn’t all bad. Early on in the conversation, Brennan made an interesting point: “We tend to focus on the bad in college sports but everything else, roughly 90%, is good.”

Let’s hope it stays that way.

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