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Sports issues up for debate

Kristin Lehman

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At a speaker series hosted by Northern Kentucky University’s Sports Business Program a panel of Greater Cincinnati college administrators, coaches and student athletes discussed issues in college athletics such as whether student athletes should be paid, ethical and racial issues, and Title IX.

NKU students filled Town ‘ Country’s sports library on April 22 to listen to Mike Bobinski, director of athletics at Xavier University, Mike DeCourcy, senior writer of The Sporting News, Terry Hoeppner, head football coach at Miami University, Jane Meier, director of athletics at NKU, Laurie Pirtle, women’s basketball coach at the University of Cincinnati, NKU President James Votruba, and David West, former Xavier basketball player.

FOX 19 News anchor Jack Atherton led the debate. The discussion began with whether college athletes should be paid.

“I want to say yes,” West said. “It’s hard coming from the background that I did.”

He said it’s difficult for student athletes to say they would not like to be paid to play, especially when they come from a lifestyle where they pay for everything themselves.

President Votruba said he is against paying athletes because it is “too hard to put a value on athletes.” He explained that colleges are “standing on a fence” with this issue, because it comes down to whether or not they want to go professional and start paying athletes.

DeCourcy is in favor of paying college athletes. He said he is in favor of having an athletic major available for students to pursue as a degree while playing sports. According to DeCourcy, they would still complete the same general studies courses, but their other courses could come from the sport that they are playing and studying.

Votruba said we have already designed majors targeted to college athletes.

For students who excel at the sport they play, Meier suggests they have a backup major so they will have both things to go out into the workforce with upon graduation.

Coach Hoeppner talked about his “attitude of gratitude” theory. He said that students need to have an attitude of gratitude towards their college for allowing them to participate in sports while receiving an education. He also said it is necessary to instill this in athletes while they are still in high school.

“There are very few athletes like David West who will make a good livelihood in college athletics.” said Votruba. “It is our responsibility to give them an education.”

Student athletes are not currently permitted to receive money from the college beyond tuition, room and board, and books, in addition to extra grants as needed.

Title IX was another issue debated in the panel’s discussion. Title IX ensures equity among women’s and men’s sports, said Meier. Some colleges have been forced to drop a men’s sport and feel it is due to this policy.

If it weren’t for Title IX, Pirtle said, she would not have played college sports and would not be coaching today.

“You want both your sons and daughters to have an equal opportunity to play sports in college,” she said, and knows her parents felt the same way.

“Title IX has been great for women’s athletics,” said DeCourcy, “but that’s not to say it is being carried out fairly.”

Atherton asked the panel members where they each feel the pressure to win originates from. The panel agreed that the coaches of men’s sports feel more pressure from the athletic directors and the college than coaches of women’s sports, because men’s sports tend to bring in more revenue for the school.

“Everything the coach is feeling is passed on to the players in the locker room,” said West.

After linking sports to business throughout the hour-long discussion, Bobinski gave his final comments and advice.

“What goes on in sports is not much different than what goes on in business,” he said, “but there is an emotional tie that makes this business unique.”

The panel discussion is the first of many to come for NKU’s Sports Business program, said Tom Gamble, Director of the Sports Business program. As of August 2002, Sports Business is offered as a major at NKU. Events such as Tuesday’s panel discussion are designed to promote the sports business program and offer interested students the opportunity to network and educate themselves about sports business.

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The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.
Sports issues up for debate