The money continues to grow in big-time college sports. Just yesterday the SEC announced it distributed a record $40.9 million to each of its 14 schools for the 2016-17 academic year, and it’s believed the Big Ten could approach the $50 million mark when its numbers come out later this year.
And yet the grand bargain remains the same. Schools will spend that money — lavishly — on their athletes, but they won’t straight up give them any of the loot in the form of a salary.
As long as the status quo remains the status quo, colleges need to give more to their athletes, something that goes beyond more name-brand workout gear or Corinthian leather seats for the team meeting room. That could be in the form of more control of their academic destiny, or it could be in what the school guarantees them while on their campus. Hence: cost of attendance scholarships, 4-year guaranteed scholarships and the like. Those have quickly become norms across major college athletics, but Indiana took it a step further this week.
The Hoosiers have created a Student-Athlete Bill of Rights — first released in 2014 and re-upped this week — a set of 10 rights that they will guarantee to every scholarship athlete that steps on campus.
The first three speak to the purported point of college sports: a degree. Indiana promises each of its athletes a cost of attendance scholarship, for all four years, for life.
After that, Indiana commits itself to the best possible treatment of Hoosier athletes in academics, safety and wellness, on-the-field training and in postgraduate life skills training. Finally, the Bill of Rights rounds out by pledging athletes a voice in how the department is run.
None of these rights are revolutionary on their own, but Indiana is the first school to put pen to paper and sign its name to every one of them in the form of a contract with its players.
But it shouldn’t be the last.