It took years, but NCAA leaders have stepped back, taken a deep breath and passed a "right to work" rule.
It never made sense for, say, a college baseball player on partial scholarship to be prevented from earning spending money during the winter months. Now, under newly passed legislation, scholarship athletes – whether on full or partial aid – will be permitted to earn a limited amount of money while attending classes.
"There are areas of concern," said Illini athletic director Ron Guenther. "I remember as a coach and one who worked in the old environment, there was competition between institutions as to who could find the big-paying jobs for athletes. We wonder if this will now be something we have to address in the living room during recruitment.
"But I think Jim Delany (Big Ten commissioner) expressed it best when he said: 'We're come through the period of reform and, if we believe reform is a success in terms of getting the presidents involved and in campuses assuming responsibility for their own integrity, then from a student welfare standpoint this is good legislation.'
"It will allow student-athletes, like other students, to work and pay for their educational experience. Some will take advantage of this, others won't. We have at least created an opportunity for those who desire to do it."
Allen will have oversight
Absorbing the work load will be the compliance officer, in this case Rick Allen. The Illini assistant athletic director serves in a position with ever-increasing responsibilities.
"I'm not as concerned about willful cheating as inadvertent mistakes. We'll be watching for the same things we look for during the summer ... that they're working the hours that are turned in, that the rate of pay is appropriate, that sort of thing. And now we have to be certain they don't go over their limit."
At his financial aid office, Orlo Austin explains that the UI has a "cost of attendance" figure that last year showed $11,780 for in-state residents and $18,080 for out-of-staters. Whether on full or partial scholarship, an athlete can earn (in the non-vacation periods) the difference between his/her scholarship grant and the projected cost of attendance. For a football player on full scholarship, it probably means he can earn around $2,000, that figure fluctuating according to his home location.
"The 'cost of attendance' is individually adjusted," said Austin. "That's the kind of thing we do. Some students have greater costs to go home. But we'll have to be more careful in adjusting for athletes."
David Chicoine, dean of the College of Agriculture and UI faculty rep, explained the evolution of a rule that barely passed, 169-150, at the recent convention.
"We have had some unfair situations for a long time," said Chicoine. "For example, a radio major on athletic scholarship couldn't serve as an intern at WILL. We needed to correct that sort of thing. One recommendation was to allow scholarship athletes to work during periods when they weren't competing. But then we had cross-country runners who also ran indoor and outdoor track, and they were never out of season. And there were those who favored no cap, but that would never have passed.
"I think this is manageable because we already oversee summer employment. But it'll be a big load on Rick Allen's shoulders. Just as the athletes fill out drug and financial aid forms, they'll also sign affidavits if they intend to work. It'll be one more form in their file, and Rick will be required to monitor each one to make sure nobody goes over the earning cap."
– Iowa athletic director Robert Bowlsby and Michigan faculty rep Percy Bates represent the Big Ten on the new Division I management council that will make recommendations to the presidents on future NCAA rules.
– During a reform period marked by "presidential takeover," former UI president Stan Ikenberry became deeply involved in athletics and served on the NCAA Presidential Commission. With athletic director Guenther reporting to UI Chancellor Michael Aiken, it is the decision of President Jim Stukel to let Aiken handle more of the athletic duties. Stukel attended the NCAA convention a year ago, and Aiken attended this month.
Loren Tate writes for The News-Gazette.