U athletes say, ‘We want to work!’

by Tim Klobuchar

Most people familiar with the NCAA had one reaction to the organization’s new policy towards student-athletes and jobs — it’s about time.
Actually, it’s about money, too. A resolution passed by the NCAA on Monday at its annual convention in Nashville, Tenn., allows full-scholarship athletes to hold a job during the academic year. Previously, only athletes on partial scholarships were allowed to work during the school year.
Long criticized for being too unconcerned about college athletes’ rights, the NCAA diverged from its traditional dogma in their latest decision.
“I think it’s fantastic,” said Gophers pole vaulter Tye Harvey. “It shows that athletes’ rights are being considered more than they have in the past.”
There still are restrictions, however. An athlete can only earn enough money to cover the difference between cost of attendance and the amount of the scholarship.
A full scholarship is determined by the NCAA by adding together the school’s tuition and fees, room and board, and books ($400 per year for books according to the NCAA). The cost of attendance includes all the factors mentioned above ($714 per year for books according to the University), plus personal expenses such as travel costs. The expenses are calculated differently at each school.
Chris Schoemann, Minnesota’s coordinator of compliance, was at the convention. He said that the delegates determined the average difference between scholarships and cost of attendance to be about $1,900. That difference is even greater at Minnesota, perhaps making the need for a job greater than at other schools.
“I think it’s excellent,” said Parc Williams, a starting linebacker on the Gophers football team. “Athletes have a hard time making extra money. You make most of your money during the summer and have to weigh it out over the whole year.”
Not only will the decision help athletes who need money for their social lives, but maybe more importantly, those who need money for basic needs.
“I’ve talked with parents of kids who don’t have that much money and they say, `What do you mean they can’t have jobs?'” said Gophers volleyball coach Mike Hebert, who has coached collegiate volleyball for 20 years. “I’ve seen more than a few cases of that.”
Since nearly all athletes have to face the real world like every other student once their college career ends, student-athletes might now find opportunities that existed before but couldn’t take advantage of.
“There’s a possibility of getting a job with a company, and they might really like you,” said Gophers hockey coach Doug Woog. “Some guys get out of school and don’t know what a real job is.”
The move represents a change in the NCAA’s philosophy, and supporters of the status quo did not go quietly. They raised questions about the large amount of paperwork that would be created, and whether some schools could gain a recruiting advantage by inflating earnings.
The possibility for deception and simple mistakes in accounting are there, which is why the compliance department will keep a constant eye on student-athletes and their employers.
“It’s more paperwork,” said Frank Kara, Minnesota’s assistant director of compliance. “We’ll have to monitor and make sure the athletes aren’t making too much money. We’ll check with the kids and do some spot checks on their employers. It’s not something new, but it’s expanded.”
Another concern is time, or lack thereof. A job during the season is almost completely out of the question. But even in the off-season, athletes still train daily. With sports and school already demanding much of their day, will athletes donate what little spare time they have to a job?
“If you could find the time to do it and not sacrifice your school or sport, it would be all right,” said Gophers volleyball player Jane Passer. “But you put everything in that you can already, and you don’t want to be shirking your other responsibilities.”
Then again, just as they have to do in their respective sports, the student-athletes often perform better under pressure.
“Our guys’ academics are usually better during the season than at any other time of the year,” Woog said. “They just know how to organize their time better.”
Almost every coach and athlete likes the concept of student-athletes working — in theory. The real question is, how many will actually go to work next fall? Early indications are that it could be quite a few.
Harvey and Williams both said they would like to take part-time jobs in their off-seasons. Kara said that Rufus Simmons, Minnesota’s assistant director of student development, had three student-athletes come to him asking about jobs right after the measure was approved.