Ivy League Wouldn’t Follow NCAA Paying Athletes, Director Says

Ivy League schools won’t pay their athletes, even if the National Collegiate Athletic Association decides to allow universities to give them stipends or cash, said Robin Harris, executive director of the conference.

The league, composed of eight elite schools in the U.S. Northeast, doesn’t provide sports scholarships and holds its athletes to rigorous academic standards. All are members of the NCAA, which will meet this month to discuss rule changes that might allow athletic programs to compensate players either through stipends to cover living expenses or more.

“If the student-athletes want to be paid, they have to find someplace else to play,” Harris said in a telephone interview from her office in Princeton, New Jersey.

Ivy League athletic directors are holding their annual fall meeting Oct. 28-29 at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, and will discuss their position on proposed NCAA changes that also include improved meals at training tables and recruiting rules.

“We’re not going to do a stipend,” Harris said. “And our general philosophy is that our athletes should be treated as close as possible to our students. That’s a guiding principle.”

Harris said if other schools want to provide stipends to supplement athletic scholarships, that’s generally acceptable, as long as participants in all sports, men and women, are treated equally.

Should the NCAA allow schools to pay players beyond stipends, especially in football and men’s basketball, Harris said, programs would be difficult to implement and would undermine college sports’ educational model.

Gender Equity

“Do you pay the starting quarterback more than the third-string lineman, and how do you balance gender equity?” she said. “If you want to do pay-for-play, then remove it from the educational model.”

Some athletes have begun to devalue the free education and training they receive. If athletes take advantage of such programs, they will receive a lifetime of benefits even without playing professionally, the executive director said.

Harris said she thinks the NCAA ultimately will allow schools with more resources to use them to benefit their athletes, while schools without the money or desire to spend can make their own choices.

Ivy League schools accounted for three of the five largest endowments in the U.S. in the year through June 2012, according to the National Association of College and University Business Officers. Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was first, Yale second and Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey, fifth.

No Disadvantage

Harris said stipends or better food or benefits to athletes at competing schools won’t be a disadvantage for the Ivy League, which also includes Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island; Columbia University in New York; Cornell University in Ithaca, New York; Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire; and the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

“I think we have prospects that will come to our schools because we offer that wonderful combination of an excellent education and highly competitive Division I athletics,” she said. “Whether another school provides steak at the training table or an iPad isn’t going to change their decision.”

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