The Scholarship Is Too Short

Joseph Agnew, a former football player for Rice University, is suing the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Agnew alleges that the association’s rules are in violation of federal antitrust laws. According to an article by Thomas O’Toole in USA Today:

[Agnew] was a freshman on scholarship for the 2006 season, appearing in all 13 games, according to the school media guide. The next year, according to the suit, a coaching staff change led to Agnew having his playing time reduced. During his sophomore season, Agnew, a defensive back, was sidelined with shoulder and ankle injuries, recording nine tackles in the first five games. The suit says his scholarship was canceled, but that he appealed and was allowed to stay on scholarship one more year but not play football.

Currently there is a one-year limit on athletic scholarships. They are subject to annual review. So just because someone receives an athletic scholarship for college doesn’t mean he’s got a full ride for four years. This is what happened to Agnew. He got the scholarship. He played football. He got injured and then lost the scholarship.

Specifically, Agnew’s suit alleges that the time limits on athletic scholarships act not to the good of the student athletes, or even the sport itself but, rather, the revenue stream of the athletic departments. As his lawyer argues:

The NCAA will tell you these limits are necessary to maintain a level playing field in college sports. However, we believe the monopoly is designed to safeguard the school sports programs’ profitability, which spawns multi-million dollar coaching contracts and rich revenue streams for the schools.

“Rich revenue streams” might be an exaggeration (for most schools sports programs are money losers) but the current system doesn’t exactly seem to work out effectively. The one-year rule certainly isn’t the sort of condition one would set up in order to facilitate an atmosphere of academic achievement.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer