Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick finds himself in the news on another roller coaster day in college athletics. And while it isn’t about a coaching change (another job opening under Barry Alvarez!) or another critique of the College Football Playoff, Swarbrick found himself speaking openly — and rather candidly — about compensating student-athletes, and the perilous position college athletic departments now find themselves in.
CBS Sports’ Jon Solomon reports on Swarbrick’s candor at the IMGIntercollegiate Athletics Forum, where Swarbrick was a rare voice taking aim at the missteps of athletics departments and universities and what he’d do to rectify them.
“You’ve got to stay grounded in this analogy to other students,” Swarbrick told CBSSports.com. “There are students on campus making a lot of money because they’ve launched a business. A classic example: Students are making great money in some internship, and I’m telling my football players they can’t leave for the summer. Where’s the equity there?”
While other athletic directors bemoaned the lawsuits that are threatening the DNA of the collegiate model as we know it or congressional involvement, Swarbrick looked inward at the problem.
But only Swarbrick cut through the usual rhetoric. Swarbrick’s point: College sports brought this on itself with rules that differentiate athletes from the general student body, such as not allowing athletes to make money off their own name.
“If we could get ourselves more grounded in the notion we wouldn’t have these problems,” Swarbrick said during a panel. “If we’re going to do something different than for the normal student, the bar for doing that ought to be really high. If we had that in place, we never would have had a limitation on the cost of attendance because a merit scholar doesn’t have that limitation. We did that for athletic reasons.
“But if our standard had been what’s the rule for other students, capturing name, image and likeness outside team activity, the musician at school doesn’t have that limitation. I’m not sure why the student-athlete should, either. I don’t find it inconsistent at all to say we need to get ourselves grounded back in that. I think it would contribute to reducing so many of the problems we have which really spring from this situation we created when we say they’re not going to be the same as other students.”
There’s plenty of other interesting points Swarbrick made to Solomon, talking about a group-licensing approach that would reopen relationships with EA Sports for videogame rights and offer other opportunities for student-athletes to earn based on name, images and likeness.
Read the whole thing here, but this final quote basically cements Swarbrick’s point (and is a big reason why Notre Dame fans should feel lucky to have him).
“But beyond that, I do think we can manage this notion of treat them like they’re peers,” Swarbrick told CBS Sports. “Find ways to do that, not excuses for not doing that. And if we do that, they become much more a part of the university, which is our core problem.
“It shocks me today when I’m at an athletic event and I hear students boo a fellow student. That never happened a decade ago. They view it like they’re not our classmate. That’s what we’ve got to get away from. If we’re just going to be minor league sports, we should leave that to minor league sports.”