The recent Wall Street Journal editorial, “California’s Pay-to-Play Bill,” is another example of the hypocrisy that plagues college sports.
The newspaper’s parent company, News Corps, is launching its new sports network Fox Sports 1 in the fall. Pac-12 football and basketball will be the cornerstones of their programing. Consequently, I was not surprised when the article and its accompanying video were critical of the intent of my bill AB 475. AB 475 would require the four universities in the Pac-12 to give their full scholarship student-athletes an additional $3,600 stipend to cover their living expenses.
The stipend would be paid for by media contracts, licensing, ticket sales and postseason revenue generated by the four schools.
A major misconception in college athletics is that a full-scholarship covers the full cost of attendance of a university. This is false. Scholarship athletes have to pay roughly $4,000 out of pocket for school-related expenses. The NCAA and The Wall Street Journal both point out that student-athletes can apply for a Pell Grant to cover their scholarship shortfall. However, I do not believe that we should subsidize student-athletes at the expense of low-income students who do not have access to any other student aid; especially student-athletes because they are the backbone of an industry that generates $11 billion annually. Universities that are members of major conferences, such as the Pac-12, have the financial resources to provide scholarships that cover the full cost of attendance.
In 2011, ESPN and Fox (a News Corporation subsidiary) agreed to a television contract with the Pac-12 Conference worth $3 billion over 12 years. Over the span of that contract, each school will make $250 million. The universities will use this money to pay for facility improvements, higher salaries for athletic department administrators and buyouts for fired coaches.
Recently, UC Berkeley agreed to pay a $5.5 million settlement over the next three years to fire its head football coach. The Journal estimates that it would cost UCLA and UC Berkeley $550,000 each to provide stipends for athletes and contends that each school needs to cut 17.5 scholarships to meet this obligation. Athletic departments in the Pac-12 generate enough revenue to provide their student-athletes with a stipend, while still offering the same number of scholarships. It is absurd to believe that UC Berkeley Athletics have the funds to pay their fired head coach almost $6 million over the next three years, but not the $6.5 million over the next 12 years to give their student-athletes a stipend for living expenses.
College athletics puts the interests of coaches, administrators and advertisers in front of the student-athletes who make these astronomical revenues possible. If the University of California can pay a coach millions of dollars a year not to coach, we can provide a student hundreds of dollars a year to honestly grant a “full ride” scholarship.
I do not fault the Wall Street Journal for trying to protect its parent company’s $3 billion investment in inter-collegiate athletics in California. However, I am proposing that a $3,600 stipend be added to the scholarships to address the inequity of the young men and women who provide the bullish return on that investment.
Assembly member Cheryl R. Brown represents the 47th Assembly District in California, which includes Colton, Fontana, Grand Terrace, Rialto, San Bernardino, and the unincorporated communities of Bloomington and Muscoy. Reach her at http://www.asmdc.org/members/a47/.