OSU AD says financial support for student athletes should evolve


NCAA leaders have criticized the National Labor Relations Board ruling last week that permits Northwestern University football players to form a union. If the ruling stands, it would be the first college-level players’ union in the country.

But Ohio State University athletic director Gene Smith said that it might be the right decision for Northwestern.

In an interview on All Sides with Ann Fisher today, Smith said that OSU already provides the sort of security that Northwestern athletes seek, including a guaranteed education and health care for career-changing injury. For example, an athlete can move on to the pros and still return to OSU for classes and a degree.

Smith said the larger issue is about more than pay, which is not part of the NLRB ruling.

At OSU, Smith said, “The issue is that our scholarship model is old…because we do not provide anything above and beyond direct expenses. we do not include the cost of attendance.”

That means expenses such as laundry, travel to and from home, personal care and many other ordinary expenditures must be borne by the athlete and his or her family, he said. Or they do without.

Smith said that a coalition of the big five college athletic conferences is working to change the rules for the top 65 colleges and universities in a way that makes sense for those with large incomes and that avoids bankrupting less profitable sports schools. The 65 schools in the five conferences — Big 12, Southeastern, Big Ten, Atlantic Coast and Pac-12 — would create some kind of payment for athletes, like a stipend.

Smith has been in the news himself in recent weeks after the Associated Press reported that his contract with OSU guarantees an $18,000 bonus every time an OSU athlete wins an individual national title in a sport such as wrestling, swimming, and fencing, for example.

Smith did not defend the bonuses.

He said his contract comes from a culture that dates to the early 1980s and that it reflects what the market can bear in terms of competition for coaching and administrative talent at big-time sports colleges and universities. He said that model should change to respond to the negative perceptions.



Join The Conversation

  • Bead

    YES! The schools are bleeding money at the expense of the student athlete.What about the athletes that don’.t go to the pros to make millions. Who takes care of their medical expenses for the rest of their lives?It is just disgusting to me how the schools and NCAA treat these young people

    • guest

      Who’ll take care of the student loans of all of the non-scholarship students who will be paying off student loans for the next 10+ years? It’s upsetting that god given talent on the field trumps all the other hard working students trying to earn a degree by studying rather than carrying a football, or dunking a basketball or whatever. Student athletes are taken advantage of. I’m not denying that. At the same time however, they absolutely are given more opportunities than the average student. And I do know first hand that they are in fact graded differently as well. Just look up Luther Wright, that’s all I have to say.

  • Phillip Staples Sr.

    Yes, I feel as though they should be able to share in this. After all they are paying for the right to attend the school of their choice. Even if it’s 25% of the revenue, that offset some the students financial obligations a student has, plus it will remove some of the pressure for the Parents, that are footing the bills for these students.

  • platoon2031

    Yes to a point. Eliminate all athletic scholarships. That is the case with Division III schools. Universities are preparing young people for life not just professional sports. Enroll them in the Affordable Care Act as part of the compensation and consider workers compensation laws for the injured.

  • guest

    Technically they are being paid. Most college athletes are on scholarships. If they want to “be paid”, maybe their scholarships should be forfeited.

  • guest

    Is it already April 2nd in Ohio?

  • djones

    No the students get scholarships and better housing and meal plans than other students on campus. they also have access to free tutors. they are given more advantages than most students on campus. as far as health care, full time students are allow to be covered by their parents insurance until the age of twenty three. if the student doesnt feel like the school is giving them enough, maybe they should quit the team and try to pay their own way through school like most people have to do. I suppose then they would realize just how good they have it.