Swinney says move toward professionalism devalues education, college experience

'I've long been on record in favor of a scholarship enhancement. I was passionate about it as a player, and I'm passionate about it now'

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney, right, explains to defensive end Corey Crawford (93) and offensive tackle Joe Gore (73) what he wants to see in a ‘W’ drill during the Tigers’ spring practice session on Wednesday in Clemson.

Photo by Mark Crammer

MARK CRAMMER/INDEPENDENT MAIL Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney, right, explains to defensive end Corey Crawford (93) and offensive tackle Joe Gore (73) what he wants to see in a ‘W’ drill during the Tigers’ spring practice session on Wednesday in Clemson.

There's revolution in the air.

Business-as-usual in major college athletics' financial universe is under siege.

The workers - the stars, if you will - want a bigger piece of the pie; and they've turned to the American legal system to affect change.

Clemson senior defensive back Martin Jenkins is a co-plaintiff in a lawsuit that supporters hope will shake the very foundation of how the NCAA, major conferences, and big-name schools do business.

Earlier this week, the National Labor Relations Board granted a request from a group of football players at Northwestern University who are seeking to unionize.

The perceived inequity - major conferences, athletic departments and coaches raking in millions each year while athletes get by on tightly-restricted scholarships worth less than the full cost of attendance - has been college athletics' elephant in the room for decades.

The NCAA has so far chosen to do next-to-nothing about it, and now faces what some coaches, Clemson's Dabo Swinney included, believes is a crisis that could have been prevented.

Swinney on professionalizing college

Swinney favors stipend

"When I was in college, there was the same discussion," Swinney said. "I've long been on record 1000 percent in favor of a stipend or a scholarship enhancement. Modernizing the scholarship is probably a better term, because it hasn't changed.

"It costs more to go to school - it costs more to see a movie, to buy gas, to wash your clothes - than when I was in school. There needs to be an adjustment there...The issue has been around for a long time. I was passionate about it as a player, and I'm passionate about it now.

"But as far as professionalizing college athletics, I think college athletics would just go away. I'm a thousand percent against that."

Swinney believes there is a central fallacy behind the move to let the market determine a college athlete's worth: that under the current system, the athlete gets nothing of value in return for his or her work.

"It totally devalues education," Swinney said. "That just blows my mind. They don't even want to quantify the value of an education.

"I'm standing here because I got my education. I didn't get into coaching to make money - coaches weren't making any money when I got into coaching. I got into coaching because it was what I wanted to do with my life and I was passionate about it. I was able to do it because I got an education. That's what changed my life, and that's what changes everybody's life."

Swinney noted that just 6.8 percent of high school players go on to play college football, and just 1.6 percent of college players make it to the NFL.

"If you walk around this campus, there are a lot of students coming out of college $70,000, $80,000 or $100,000 in debt," Swinney said. "I got put on scholarship and I was still $33,000 in debt, and I had everything - Pell Grants and student loans. That's how I went to school. I spent 10 years paying that back, but every month when I wrote a check I was happy to do it because it changed my life.

"To say these guys get nothing, that devalues what they get here."

Swinney suggested that perhaps the solution is to create a two-tiered system, maintaining college athletics for those who wish to pursue an education, while creating a 'minor league' football structure.

"The NFL could fund it, just like baseball does," Swinney said. "Guys who don't want to go to school, who don't value an education, don't have to come - just go to work. Guys who are serious about changing their life can come to college. That would be a simple way to resolve the issue."

Swinney offered Tajh Boyd as an example of a pro-level athlete who has fully taken advantage of the opportunity afforded by college.

"The guys who take advantage of their opportunity and are successful are the guys who don't let football use them, but who use football," Swinney said. "Tajh Boyd could quit football right now and people would be lined up from here to California to hire that guy.

"Why? Because he look advantage of his opportunity, his platform, the marketing, the brand. These guys are trained with great expertise and great resources.

"There are so many things that go into the college experience. To say there's no value in that, I just don't understand that argument."

Follow Kerry Capps on Twitter @oandwkc

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Comments » 5

lhaselden writes:

I agree with Dabo that it needs to be about education and he shows that it is with him and the Clemson program. A lot of schools in the NCAA and some in the ACC (UNC for example) do not put a priority on the education part. Athletes leave with no pro career and maybe a diploma but no education, no skills other than their sport.
I think all athletic scholarships should be increased not just football and basketball.

DahlonegaJoe writes:

If the athletes are going to claim that they are employees, then they are going to have some interesting questions from the IRS on income taxes. Regarding stipends that they are getting already, have they paid taxes and FICA?

Clemorange writes:

Amen Dabo.

MoncksTater writes:

The judge or whoever agreed with Northwestern players has to be kidding ...and should have his/her head examined ! College kids aren't making their schools money , they are allowed to participate in an already existing lucrative venture , of which they recieve a free education that is sometimes worth over 100 thousand dollars. It strikes me as greedy on their part and irresponsible on the part of the lawyers/judges who would go along with such a ridiculous notion.

brookesdad729 writes:

This all could been avoided.The idiots known as the NCAA could have avoided all of this had they had just listened over the past few years to all the discontent and displeasure with they way they've been handling things instead of just thumbing their nose at everyone like "we're the gods of all things athletic"! This issue with Northwestern is really players just trying to have a voice and they should when its concerning them. With the money being made from college football now it crosses the line into exploitation, when all you can offer them is a scholarship when you making tens of millions marketing them as a product. I'm not saying pay them, I don't agree with that because it needs to stay college athletics but bring something to the table. You won't let them receive gifts and such so then their institutions need to give them something! I realize some of these kids would never have gotten into college were it not for an athletic scholarship and that's great but you have to at least look at all the money you're making off of them and give them just a little taste of the pie! Think about this: We would have no interest in these players or their lives at all were it not for the entertainment they offer us on the field which we pay to watch. We wouldn't give a rat's behind about the Sammy Watkins of the world were it not for the entertainment he gave us on the field. He would have been just another black kid on the block, so let's get off our horse and be real about it all! Give these guys a voice please!

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