NCAA President Mark Emmert appeared on ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike" Friday morning and talked about several of the bigger issues facing the organization, including whether the value of a scholarship is enough, granting student-athletes unlimited food and the unionization efforts at Northwestern. Emmert said while the NCAA generates $800-900M annually from the men's basketball tournament, it is the only event that brings in revenue. Emmert: "That money pays for all of intercollegiate athletics that we’re involved with. We run 89 championships -- Divisions I, II, III, all of the sports. Everything that we do is paid for by that one top-line revenue number. So when people say, ‘Oh my God, look at all of the money colleges are getting and earning and making off of a sport,’ that’s just dead wrong. ... This notion that somehow there is a big vault with $10 billion in it is silly." He noted "most everybody" that works in college athletics would say a scholarship is enough for student-athletes without adding a stipend. Emmert: "If we’re providing the full cost of attendance and the student doesn't have to reach in their own pocket to pay for their education, they’re getting all the things they need. I heard you guys talking about insurance and a bunch of other things. We need to address all of those issues, but there is almost nobody that I’ve ever talked to that wants to turn student-athletes into paid employees of universities.” Emmert was asked if colleges are losing out on money by giving out scholarships. He responded, “Yes, sure they are. They are taking a seat from a paying student."
PUTTING FOOD ON THE TABLE: Emmert said he did not "know how to interpret" UConn G Shabazz Napier’s comments made during the Final Four that he sometimes goes to bed hungry because he cannot afford to buy food, but the athletes on full scholarship are either given the "cash equivalent of what a full meal plan is worth or they’re getting a full meal plan." The NCAA earlier this week allowed athletes to get unlimited meals and snacks, and Emmert admitted that the NCAA's "biggest problem" is "dumb rules about food." Emmert: "If UConn wants to feed Shabazz breakfast in bed every day, they can. Great, fine, who cares? Feed kids what they need for nutrition, get out of the nitpicky nonsense.”
COVERAGE PLANS: Insurance coverage is a key aspect of the ongoing unionization effort at Northwestern, but Emmert said athletes are already covered if someone "gets injured today playing football or basketball or any sport and that’s a prolonged injury, goes and sticks with them their whole lifetime." Emmert: "We spend $20 million a year on long-term insurance policies for student-athletes. We have young men and young women who tragically have had injuries stretch all the way through their life. They've been covered for 20, 30 years in some cases. We need to make sure that that’s good enough. We need to make sure that the insurance while they’re playing is good enough. We’re pretty confident that it is" (“Mike & Mike,” ESPN Radio, 4/18).
TWITTER REAX: Emmert's interview drew a lot of reaction on Twitter, the vast majority of it negative. The Wall Street Journal's Jason Gay wrote, "NCAA arg. about how pay for play concerns only 1 percent of athletes; okay, but same athletes used to bid up billion dollar NCAA deals." The South Florida Sun-Sentinel's Omar Kelly tweeted, "So now that players are working to unionize the NCAA address the food issue, medical issues and transfer rules according to Emmert. REALLY!" ESPN's Bomani Jones: "The one thing lost when these idiots slam the union effort: stop acting like savages and they don’t have to unionize, genius." USA Today's Dan Wolken wrote of the comment about Napier getting breakfast in bed, "That comes off as so cavalier." SB Nation's Bill Connelly tweeted, "Seriously, the absolute worst thing the NCAA can do right now is continue letting Mark Emmert speak in public." Forbes' Darren Heitner: "For PR ppl: What does NCAA accomplish by having Mark Emmert do #askemmert on @MikeAndMike?" The Miami Herald's David Neal: "I realize quotes aren't in context, but via the highlights, Emmert sounds like he's firing away as he goes down in flames on @MikeAndMike."