Meet the Press   |  March 23, 2014

Should Student Athletes Get Paid?

Obama aide Reggie Love, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and NCAA President Mark Emmert discuss the ethics of compensating college athletes.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> welcome back. march madness is here. as up excitement is created by this college basketball tournament, there is a big diabetic in college sports . should athletes be paid. a new poll out this morning suggests 64% of the public opposes paying players with only 33% in favor. but there is some momentum behind a string of lawsuits against the ncaa pushing for greater commercial rights for the athletes. and here to debate the issue are reggie love who played football and basketball for duke on the championship team back in 2001 before becoming a personal aid to president obama , mark emmert is, of course, the president of the ncaa and we're very pleased to have you on a big day for march madness here in our studio. of course, secretary of education arne duncan who played basketball for harvard. and much to the delight of my son was this is year's mvp in the nba celebrity all-star game. arme, you made big news at home. welcome to all of you. this is a -- it's a controversial issue. it gets to be a heated issue. i want to tram it this way. this is a comment from the jeffrey kesler who is the lawyer representing some of the athletes and he laid out the issue this way. the one thing people should recognize is how fundamentally unfair it is to look at a team in the ncaa tournament where the coach is making $5 million, the school is generating hundreds of millions, sponsors are cashing in. administrators are cashing in and the only group not receiving any benefit are these athletes. most of whom -- it was a typo there not on our part most of who will not graduate and most of who will never be a professional athlete. this is their one opportunity to be recognized and compensated. so president emmert, why isn't this unfair not to compensate these athletes who are creating so much value?

>> i think mr. kesler and a variety of other people have framed this quell completely wrong. beak, what is being argued here is should student under athletes whether they're basketball players or any other sport be unionized, employees of a university or is this fundamentally about students playing the game and receiving the most important thing that's going to set them up the rest of their life, a good sound education and the opportunity to get that education . obviously, universities and colleges believe that these are student athletes that these are young men and women who should continue to be students and not be unionized employees. those are two very different.

>> reggie love has a different view. the argument here is that mark is underlining is the student part of student athlete . isn't there some myths associated with that, that this is an amateur athletic experience?

>> look, when you look at the coach's salaries and the amount of money that universities are able to bring in from alumni, obviously college sports is a business. and that being said, i think it's hard to say that every mayor should be paid for their participation and a specific dollar amount. but i do think that student athletes are a key partner in the ecosystem, and there should be the opportunity to build long-term value. it shouldn't just be about athletic development but it should be about athletic, professional, and personal development . these kids are 18, 19.

>> they're not partners now is is the issue. they're not partners. they create so much of the revenue but they're not actually partners in this business. to suggest it's not a business when you're making almost a billion dollars in tv revenue most of which comes from march madness strikes people as disingenuous.

>> a lot of confusion where that money goes. absolutely march madness generates a lot of revenue. that is used to support all of the other tournaments, divisions one, two, and three. it's a young man, young women playing golf, volleyball, lacrosse, ice hockey , all of those tournaments, everything that goes on in college sport is supported by the revenue many guys i played with looked up to went to universities. paid a lot of money for the universities. never got their degree. came back home with nothing to show for it and there was something fundamentally unfair for that. for me the real care is we have to change is the structure so graduation rates are the most important thing and to be the ncaa 's credit they've raced the bar. the university of connecticut who won the national championship couldn't compete the following year because their graduation rate was so low and now have made significant changes. new president, new coach, guess what, the students are doing better. the most important thing we can do is help them get that degree.

>> over their lifetime, their earnings a million dollars more than that. the incentive structures have to be changed so much more of their compensation is based not upon wins and losses but around around academic performance and graduation. university presidents and boards have been soft on this issue. you have to look at the leadership of universities here.

>> one of the aspects of the unfairness piece of this was captured in a tweet, reggie, that we found. a sports columnist for the " l.a. times " bill plash keel tweet this had over the weekend "there are no planned meals for the teams on the off day. should a team wish to have a meal at his own cost, it can make arrangements. the follow-up tweet was this my previous tweet was copied from an ncaa memo found at the san diego tourney site. they can't even feed the kids that are making them billions. there is not even a stipend that has been agreed to to be able to support kids who bean beyond the scholarship can't pay for some of their basic necessities like food when they're creating so much value.

>> yeah, i think, look, you get a range of student athletes who come into a university . you have kids who come from great families and have tons of resources and have you kids who come from not much and don't have the ability to buy a suit or a laptop or to do any of the participate in a lot of the fundamental things that are required to be a student athlete or be a student. i think the ncaa has done some very good things in terms of making more resources available to kids who need these resources but i do think that you know, there are additional things that could be done to give kids an additional opportunity to.

>> make the case. what would you see?

>> like i think an educational trust. i just got out of graduate school , right? i think that you know, graduate school cost me almost 200,000 bucks. i think every student athlete who plays for a university hud be able to go to the university assuming that they can do the work, they should be able to be educated, graduate school .

>> i think that's really important. people talk about helping them graduate from college. yes, they should do that. but mba, masters, ph.d. having some ability for the rest of your life to go back and get education , that's something worth considering. some.folks are talking about the medical expenses long-term. that's a fair question on the table. but this chance to continue your education not just for a couple years while you're competing but more beyond that much longer.

>> what about the stipend issue? look, you put this to a vote as i understand it, and the schools didn't agree. some of the smaller schools rather vetoed the idea of a nommal stipend to help family members get to games, to help some of the fleets with their basics.

>> all of these issues we're discussing right now are not only good topics it discuss but fairen an appropriate things to do that are being aggressively debated right now inside the ncaa . as most people know the rules of the ncaa aren't made by me but the members themselves. and we have twice now had the board of the ncaa pass an allowance to allow schools to provide a couple of thousand dollars in what we call miscellaneous expense allowances. the kind of things you were just discussing. the board's in favor of it. the more than a thousand colleges and universities out there, 50 of them individually run had voted that down. we're in the middle right now of reconsidering all that. i have every reason to believe that's going to be in place sometime this coming year.

>> what's the doomsday scenario ? what would be so wrong if let's say you had "time" magazine suggested this, you had a pool of money, a cap say and that you could decide to pay the athletes a certain amount. what's the doomsday scenario in your view?

>> there's two parts of it. the first is, are you taking students and converting them to employees? that's what the northwestern debate is about.

>> they want to unionize there.

>> they want to unionize. you have to sesay these are employees. if you're going to do that, it completely changes the relationship. i don't know why you would want them to be students if they're employees and playing basketball for you, don't let calculus get in the way.

>> the common sense middle ground in all these things, making students are fed, making sure it if there's an emergency at home and mom gets very sick or dad passes away, they have the ability to get home and attend the funeral. some students show up with one little bag of clothes, all they have in the world. there's some things you can do there. thinking about the students long-term benefits for the rest of hair life which has to be on the educational side. the problem out there david, there are, too. many.young men in particular, talking about march madness think they're going to grow up and play in the nba . the vast majority aren't. half of division 2g basketball players think they're going to the nba . we have to get the idea case that dream but catch an education and use sports as a vehicle to get an education which sets you up for the rest of your life and changes your family's prospects forever.

>> the secretary is -- i think the secretary's just spot on with all of that. the game-changer in life for all of us is getting an education , a real valid will legitimate education . making sure that they can doing that without having to worry about the costs and how it's going to be paid for, making a commitment to a lifetime education i think the makes great sense. reggie's right on that, as well. i do want to correct one point though. we don't have student athletes that are going without but the meals. they get tuition fees, room and board, books and supplies. they can food maybe not when you were playing today they can get a laptop from their athletic department, they can get a suit and tie from the department. they can get a flight home for an emergency. so it's a very different world than it was five years ago.

>> you're saying the education is spot on. the reality is, there is an element of professionalizing this. if my son wants a villanova jersey with josh hart's name on it, that's against the rules. i can buy a jersey with number three on it and he's happy because he knows what that means. you're using the likeness of players and marketing them to kids, you're professionalizing this. i don't read a lot of stories about johnny manziel and what he wants to do after football if he's not drafted. there is this professional element. what's the compromise? what can you commit to to say, we can close this gap a little bit?

>> the gap needs to be closed around the context of being a student at a university . so the if we provide the ncaa members, universities and colleges provide a young man or young woman with all the expenses they have, legitimate expensions as a student athlete , including this so-called stipend, that extras amount of money makes great sense and it would be very valuable to the students, provide them with that, and a commitment for lifelong education at least to the finish the bachelor's degrees. they want to come back and finish, great. let them come back and finish making sure they have the resources available to be successful so they're the set up for the rest of their life.

>> that's half the battle. the other half i want to emphasize is the incentives for coaches are basically all wrong now. tom mcmillan rhodes scholar has done fantastic work in terms of coaches compensation. he looked at a number of contracts. the dollar value was $11 for wins and $1 for academic performance. we see that place after place after place. for me, there should be a threshold academically. if students aren't performing at that the of coaches shouldn't get anything. if coaches are doing the wrong thing and cheating the patents should need to follow the coaches.

>> ten seconds left.

>> the incentives are disaligned. but i do think that there are some great coaches out there who are committed to the university who are committed to the men and women on their teams, but you know, i think there are also some bad apples out there, as well. there are a lot of folks out there who look at this as a business and their main point is how can i get paid. and if coaches have that attitude, it's had for players not to have that attitude. a great example, you look at tickets to a basketball game at a university . definitely commercialized. a student athlete can't go out and sell his ticket that he gets as a student athlete 59 market value . but a university can tie a $10,000 alumni check to a season ticket holder . they can get more than market value as a university for those tickets. but there's nothing in place that is says a student shouldn't -- that a student shouldn't do that, as well.

>> we're going to leave the debates there. it will continue to go on. mark emmert in particular, thank you for being here when you're so busy with march madness . we'll