STORRS, Conn. ― The University of Connecticut’s athletic director says he opposes the idea of unions for college athletes, yet sees the need to provide students on athletic scholarships with additional money.
Warde Manuel, in a wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday, said he supports recent changes that will allow the school to provide unlimited food and snacks to players.
The NCAA adopted those changes this spring, days after UConn guard Shabazz Napier told reporters at the Final Four that he sometimes went to bed hungry because of rules that allowed the school to pay for only three meals a day.
Manuel said that in addition to those changes he also believes the NCAA should look toward allowing stipends or “laundry money” for other out-of-pocket expenses above tuition, room and board.
“But to me we have to look at it holistically and not just for those in the revenue producing sports, just because we sell tickets to football and men’s and women’s basketball and hockey,” he said. “I think there needs to be a balance and student-athletes need to have a voice in the process.”
Manuel’s comments come as the NCAA awaits a decision in a lawsuit that that could change the way college sports are regulated. Former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon and 19 other plaintiffs are asking a U.S. District Court judge for an injunction that would allow athletes to sell the rights to their own images in television broadcasts and rebroadcasts.
Manuel declined to comment on whether college athletes should be allowed to profit from sales of video games or jerseys bearing their number. But, he said he does not think that schools should “own” the rights to an athlete’s likeness “in perpetuity.”
He noted that some schools have stopped selling jerseys with numbers that reflect those of popular players, opting instead to use the last two digits of the year or some other innocuous number.
Manuel, who played football at Michigan, said he also doesn’t want to see players treated as if they were employees of the athletic department.
He worries that unions could lead to that.
“Twenty to 21 hours a day our athletes are students on this campus,” he said. “Three to four hours a day they are athletes on this campus. My argument is the majority of the time they are students here to get an education. We value that. We stress it.”
His own football scholarship, he said, allowed him to get an education his parents otherwise would not have been able to afford. That education, he said, should be the most valuable benefit that comes from being a scholarship athlete.