Rick Eckstein Revisited: How College Athletics Are Hurting Girls Sports


>>COLLEGE AND PROFESSIONAL SPORTS ARE MORE
POPULAR THAN EVER. AND THAT MEANS THAT YOUTH SPORTS ARE TAKING
ON A HIGHER PROFILE AS WELL. SOMETIMES FOR ALL THE WRONG REASONS. SOCIOLOGY PROFESSOR AND AUTHOR RICK ECKSTEIN
DISCUSSES SOME OF THE DOWNSIDES OF YOUTH SPORTS IN HIS LATEST BOOK “HOW COLLEGE ATHLETICS
ARE HURTING GIRLS SPORTS – THE PAY-TO-PLAY PIPELINE.” HE SAT DOWN THIS SUMMER WITH CORRESPONDENT
KHALIL EKULONA TO DISCUSS HIS FINDINGS.>>RICK ECKSTEIN, AUTHOR AND
PROFESSOR AT VILLA NOVA UNIVERSITY, THANK YOU FOR
STOPPING BY NEW MEXICO PBS STUDIOS.>>PLEASURE TO BE HERE.>>WHAT SPARKED YOUR INTEREST
IN RESEARCHING YOUTH SPORTS?>>A COUPLE OF THINGS. MOSTLY AS A COLLEGE PROFESSOR,
TEACHING STUDENTS WHO ARE ROUGHLY 18 TO 21, I NOTICED
OVER THE YEARS, MORE AND MORE OF THEM WERE COMING TO CLASS
ON CRUTCHES, COMING TO CLASS WITH CONCUSSION HEADBANDS AND
TENDED TO BE THE ATHLETES AND FEMALE ATHLETES. SO THAT GOT ME INTERESTED IN
WHAT WAS GOING ON AND THERE SEEMED TO BE A MASSIVE
INCREASE, ANECDOTALLY, IN MY EXPERIENCE, OF YOUNG WOMEN
ESPECIALLY HAVING THESE OVERUSE INJURIES. AS A YOUTH SPORTS COACH
MYSELF, I GOT TO SEE FIRSTHAND, THE LURE OF DOING
THINGS THAT WEREN’T NECESSARILY IN THE BEST
INTEREST OF PEOPLE PHYSICALLY OR MENTALLY BUT JUST THE IDEA
THAT SOMEHOW SPECIALIZING IN A SPORT AND PLAYING YEAR ROUND
WOULD LEAD TO A COVETED COLLEGE SCHOLARSHIP AND I
WANTED TO SEE WHAT THE REALITY WAS ABOUT THAT.>>OKAY. THE BOOK IS ON PAY TO PLAY
YOUTH SPORTS. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?>>IT MEANS IF YOU WANT TO
PARTICIPATE IN THE YOUTH SPORTS SYSTEM AND ESPECIALLY
IF YOU HAVE SOME NOTION OF GETTING YOURSELF A SCHOLARSHIP
OR ADMISSIONS ADVANTAGE TO A LEADING UNIVERSITY, YOU HAVE
TO GET INVOLVED IN THIS COMMERCIAL ENTERPRISE, THAT IS
YEAR AROUND WHAT WE CALL SHOWCASE TOURNAMENTS. AND YOU CAN’T JUST PLAY
RECREATIONAL SOCCER OR SPORTS ANYMORE, YOU CAN’T JUST PLAY
FOR YOUR SCHOOL ANYMORE, BECAUSE THE COLLEGE RECRUITERS
WHO HAVE PRESSURES OF THEIR OWN, COMING FROM THE BOSSES OF
HIGHER EDUCATION, THEY DON’T GO TO THE SCHOOLS ANYMORE, OR
PLAYGROUNDS, EXCEPT IN A COUPLE SPORTS, A COUPLE OF
MALE SPORTS. MOSTLY THEY GO TO THE PAY TO
PLAY TOURNAMENTS WHERE TEAMS COME FROM ALL OVER THE
COUNTRY, PEOPLE ARE PAYING $5,000 A YEAR JUST TO BE ON A
TEAM AND THOUSANDS MORE TO ATTEND THE TOURNAMENTS. IT COULD BE 12, 14, 16
TOURNAMENTS A YEAR AND YOU HAVE TO HAVE MONEY TO BE ABLE
TO GET INTO THE SYSTEM, AND SO PEOPLE WHO DON’T, CAN’T, AND
WHAT FEW SCHOLARSHIPS ARE OUT THERE, THEY DON’T HAVE ACCESS.>>HOW DID THIS ALL GET
STARTED?>>THERE HAS ALWAYS BEEN
SCHOLARSHIPS FOR MEN BUT IN THE WAKE OF TITLE IX IN THE
LATE 70’S AND REALLY IT KICKED IN MORE IN THE 90’S AND
2000’S, MANY MORE OPPORTUNITIES AT COLLEGE LEVEL
STARTED OPENING UP FOR WOMEN TO PARTICIPATE IN
INTERCOLLEGIATE ATHLETICS AND DIFFERENT SPORTS HAVE
DIFFERENT INTERCOLLEGIATE FOOTPRINTS AND THOSE SPORTS
WHICH DEVELOP THE LARGEST FOOTPRINTS AND MOST
SIGNIFICANT, TENDED TO THEN CREATE IN ITS WAKE, A HUGE
SPORTS SYSTEM THAT WAS HIGHLY COMMERCIALIZED AND TRIES TO
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE EXPANDING OPPORTUNITIES BUT
ALSO EXAGGERATED THESE OPPORTUNITIES AND COLLEGES AND
UNIVERSITIES HAVE DONE NOTHING TO TAMP DOWN THAT
EXAGGERATION. IN FACT THEY ARE PROBABLY
MOST RESPONSIBLE FOR ENCOURAGING THE
MISUNDERSTANDING OF SCHOLARSHIPS AND ADMISSIONS
ADVANTAGES.>>WOW. WELL, YOUTH SPORTS, YOU AND I
WERE TALKING BEFORE TAPING AND YOU HAVE BEEN A RECREATIONAL
COACH. I HAVE BEEN A RECREATIONAL
COACH. BUT THERE ARE THESE CAMPS YOU
MENTIONED. WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN
THE TWO.>>THERE IS NOW DIFFERENT
LEVELS, MORE AND MORE LEVELS ALL THE TIME OF THESE YOUTH
SPORTS OPPORTUNITIES, STARTING FROM, SAY, RECREATIONAL AND
TOWNSHIP PROGRAMS NOW WHICH ARE MOSTLY RECREATIONAL, THEY
STARTED FORMING THEIR OWN TRAVEL COMPONENTS, SOMETIMES
EVEN WITHIN A TRAVEL COMPONENT, YOU HAVE AN ELITE
TRAVEL COMPONENT. AND THIS HAS BEEN GOING ON BUT
THAT IS NOT WHERE THE GROWTH IS. MOST OF IT IS FROM A MORE
PRIVATE SYSTEM OUTSIDE OF TOWNSHIPS AND CITIES WHERE
COMPANIES HAVE LITERALLY STARTED AND THEY CALL
THEMSELVES NOT FOR PROFIT BUT THEY ARE NOT.
AND THEY HAVE MARKETED THEMSELVES AS BEING A BETTER
WAY TO NAVIGATE THE YOUTH SPORTS TERRAIN SO THAT YOU CAN
GET THAT COVETED SCHOLARSHIP. LET’S FACE IT, HIGHER
EDUCATION — I DON’T KNOW HOW OLD YOUR KIDS ARE, HIGHER
EDUCATION IS EXPENSIVE, IRONICALLY ONE OF THE REASONS
IT IS SO EXPENSIVE, SCHOOLS ARE SPENDING MORE AND MORE
MONEY ON INTERCOLLEGIATE ATHLETICS AS OPPOSED TO
INSTRUCTION AND RESEARCH. SOMEONE HAS TO PAY FOR THAT
AND INTERESTINGLY IN A CIRCULAR WAY, CAUSED PEOPLE TO
LOOK FOR MORE MONEY TO HELP PAY FOR COLLEGE.>>THESE SPORTS CAMPS AND
THESE LEAGUES AND TRAVEL TEAMS, COST A LOT OF MONEY. WHAT EFFECT DOES THAT HAVE ON
FAMILIES JUST TRYING TO GET A SCHOLARSHIP FOR THEIR YOUNG
DAUGHTER.>>THEY THINK IT IS GOING TO
GREASE THE SKIDS IN HELPING THEM GET THE SCHOLARSHIPS. WHAT HAPPENS IS THEY ARE SOLD
A BILL OF GOODS BECAUSE THEY DON’T KNOW HOW RESTRICTED THE
OPPORTUNITIES ACTUALLY ARE. THEY HAVE MAGNIFIED THE
EXISTENCE OF THE SCHOLARSHIPS, THE SIZE OF THE SCHOLARSHIPS,
HOW MUCH ADMISSIONS ADVANTAGE THEY MIGHT GET TO THE
UNIVERSITY. SO THEY GO IN WITH COMPLETE
BEFUDDLEMENT ABOUT WHAT IS GOING ON AND THEY BECOME VERY
RIPE FOR MANIPULATION AND A COACH OR A TRAINER OR LEAGUE
OR TEAM OR A CAMP WILL SAY, LOOK, WE HAVE GOT KIDS WHO
CAME TO THIS CAMP AND NOW THEY ARE PLAYING A DIVISION 1
SPORT, OR NOW THEY ARE IN THE IVY LEAGUE DOING THIS, AND
SOMETIMES IT IS TRUE AND SOMETIMES IT IS NOT.
AND IN THE BOOK THERE IS A SECTION AND I WENT THROUGH AND
I TRACED A LOT OF THESE CAMPS AND TEAMS AND LEAGUES WHO
CLAIMED TO HAVE PLAYERS IN CERTAIN PLACES AND I COULDN’T
FIND A LOT OF THEM. SO A LOT OF IT IS MARKETING
AND TRYING TO SELL YOUR PRODUCT AND DIFFERENTIATE YOUR
PRODUCT FROM SOMEONE ELSE’S PRODUCT, WHICH IS PRETTY MUCH
THE SAME THING.>>TEAM PARENTS AND FAMILIES
LEFT OUT, JUST COMPLETELY, THERE IS VERY LITTLE CHANCE
FOR THEM TO GET THEIR DAUGHTER INTO A SCHOOL ON A
SCHOLARSHIP.>>NON-REVENUE SPORTS FOR
WOMEN AND GIRLS IT IS ALL SPORTS ARE NON-REVENUE SPORTS. FOR MEN AND FOR BOYS, THERE IS
STILL AN OPPORTUNITY IN BASKET AND FOOTBALL TO KIND OF
CIRCUMVENT THE PIPELINE. THERE IS STILL RECRUITING THAT
GOES ON IN PLAYGROUNDS AND HIGH SCHOOLS, SO, HIGH SCHOOL
FOOTBALL, WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT, IS SORT OF CLASS
NEUTRAL. ANYONE WHO CAN GO TO HIGH
SCHOOL CAN PLAY ON THE FOOTBALL TEAM. THERE IS A SUBSIDY THERE FROM
THE SCHOOL BUT THAT DOESN’T EXIST IN THE NON-REVENUE
SPORTS. YOU HAVE TO PAY TO PLAY IF YOU
WANT TO PLAY IN COLLEGE. THERE IS WAYS AROUND IT BUT IT
IS VERY DIFFICULT.>>OKAY. NOW, WE WERE TALKING ABOUT THE
RISINGS COSTS OF GOING TO COLLEGE AND UNIVERSITY, IS
THIS A DIRECT CORRELATION? IS THIS AFFECTING YOUTH
SPORTS?>>MY ARGUMENT IN THE BOOK IS
THAT IT IS CAUSAL AND THAT IT IS POLICIES OF HIGHER
EDUCATION IN PUTTING MORE EMPHASIS ON INTERCOLLEGIATE
ATHLETICS AS A WAY TO CULTIVATE THEIR BRAND. THEY ARE LESS AND LESS
INTERESTED IN INSTRUCTION AND RESEARCH BECAUSE EVERYONE DOES
IT. IF THEY COME UP WITH A VISIBLE
TEAM AND POUR MONEY INTO FAMOUS COACHES, GET THEMSELVES
AS CHAMPIONSHIP, WIN A LEAGUE, THEY THINK THAT THAT IS GOING
TO PROPEL THEM INTO SOME NEXT LEVEL OF HIGHER EDUCATION
WHERE PROFESSORS WILL FLOCK THERE, STUDENTS WILL FLOCK
THERE, MONEY WILL FLOCK THERE. THEY REALLY BELIEVE THIS. THERE IS NO EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE
TO SUPPORT IT BUT IT IS CONVENTIONAL WISDOM IN HIGHER
EDUCATION THAT USING SPORTS, HIGHLY VISIBLE SPORTS, IS THE
WAY TO BEST MARKET AND PROMOTE YOUR BRAND.>>I UNDERSTAND. I REMEMBER WATCHING NCAA
TOURNAMENT AS A YOUNG HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT AND BEING
INTERESTED IN SOME OF THE SCHOOLS THAT WERE LOCALLY
CLOSE BY BUT SUCCEEDING. LET ME ASK YOU ANOTHER
QUESTION. AS FAR AS THE UNIVERSITIES AND
THESE PAY TO PLAY PROGRAMS, WE UNDERSTAND FAMILIES ARE
INVESTING A LOT OF MONEY INTO THESE PAY TO PLAY PROGRAMS FOR
THEIR CHILD TO GET A SCHOLARSHIP. IS THERE A MATCH SOMETIMES —
WHAT I AM ASKING IS, POSSIBLY WILL THE FAMILY SPEND MORE IN
THESE PROGRAMS THAN THE SCHOLARSHIP ASSISTANCE THEY
RECEIVE?>>GENERALLY, FAR MORE. THERE ARE A COUPLE OF SPORTS
AND I DIDN’T INTEND THE BOOK TO BE THIS WAY BUT SOME PEOPLE
HAVE ALREADY TAKEN IT. THERE ARE A FEW SPORTS LIKE
ROWING AND ICE HOCKEY FOR FEMALES WHERE YOU CAN GET A
PRETTY GOOD RETURN ON YOUR INVESTMENT, BUT THE
INTERCOLLEGIATE FOOTPRINT IS EXPANDING FASTER THAN THE
SUPPLY OF ATHLETES. SO THEY ARE THROWING MONEY
AROUND THE HOCKEY PLAYERS AND ROWERS BUT THAT IS GOING TO
END AND THAT IS THE THING ABOUT HOCKEY AND ROWING, THEY
ARE INCREDIBLY EXPENSIVE. IN ORDER TO GET INTO THAT
SYSTEM AND GET A RETURN ON YOUR INVESTMENT, YOU HAVE TO
HAVE THE CAPITAL UP FRONT IN ORDER TO MAKE THAT INVESTMENT
AND MANY FAMILIES DON’T.>>YOU CLAIM THE NCAA IS KIND
OF A PROMOTER AND REGULATOR OF THIS SYSTEM. WHAT SUPPORTS THAT ARGUMENT?>>IT IS MORE PROMOTION BY
IGNORING IT. THEY ENABLE IT AND HAVEN’T
DONE ANYTHING TO DISSUADE THESE PIPELINES FROM FORMING. BECAUSE, IN THEIR MIND, AS
LONG AS THE RECRUITMENT IS DONE FAIRLY AND AS LONG AS, AT
THE COLLEGE LEVEL, THE COMPETITION IS NOT BIASED AND
HASN’T BEEN JADED BY SOME UNFAIR ADVANTAGE, THEY DON’T
REALLY CARE. I DON’T NECESSARILY BLAME THEM
FOR THIS. BUT THE COLLEGES AND
UNIVERSITIES DECIDE WHAT THE POLICIES WANT TO BE AND IF
THEY WANT TO STOP SPENDING MILLIONS OF DOLLARS A YEAR
RECRUITING AT THE SHOWCASE TOURNAMENTS AND GO OUT AND
RECRUIT AT HIGH SCHOOLS, THAT IS THEIR BUSINESS. AND I WOULD ENCOURAGE COLLEGES
AND UNIVERSITIES TO DO THAT. BECAUSE IT IS FAIR AND IT
WOULD GIVE PEOPLE AN OPPORTUNITY TO PLAY COLLEGE
SPORTS WHICH IS A LOT OF FUN AT TIMES AND WHY SHOULD YOU
HAVE TO BE RICH OR MOSTLY WHITE AND SUBURBAN IN ORDER TO
PARTICIPATE IN COLLEGE SPORTS? YOU LOOK AT THE DEMOGRAPHICS
OF COLLEGE SPORTS AND IT DOES NOT LOOK LIKE THE U.S. AND
DOESN’T EVEN LOOK LIKE HIGHER EDUCATION IN THE U.S.
IT IS VERY WHITE, VERY UPPER MIDDLE CLASS AND SUBURBAN.>>IS THAT DUE TO THE
CORPORIFICATION OF HIGHER EDUCATION?>>THAT FEEDS THESE COMMERCIAL
PIPELINES WHICH ARE THE PAY TO PLAY PIPELINES AND
RESTRICTIVE, SO THAT IS WHY I ARGUE COLLEGES AND
UNIVERSITIES WOULD HAVE TO CHANGE THEIR POLICIES AND THAT
MIGHT TRICKLE DOWN AND AFFECT THE YOUTH SPORTS PIPELINE.>>ONE FINAL QUESTION, WE TALK
ABOUT YOU HAVE TESTIMONIALS FROM PLAYERS AND FAMILIES
TALKING ABOUT THE SACRIFICES THEY MAKE AND WHAT THEY HAVE
TO GO THROUGH IN ORDER TO EARN A SCHOLARSHIP BUT THE
SCHOLARSHIP SYSTEM ISN’T SAME. THERE ARE ONLY A FEW SPORTS
WITH FULLY GUARANTEED SCHOLARSHIPS. WHAT IS IT IN THE SYSTEM THAT
WE, AS THE GENERAL PUBLIC, DON’T KNOW?>>WE DON’T KNOW HOW MANY
SCHOLARSHIPS ARE AVAILABLE PER TEAM, PER NCAA LEVEL. DIVISION 1, DIVISION 2,
DIVISION 3. NCAA PUTS MAXIMUM NUMBERS OF
WHAT ARE CALLED FULL SCHOLARSHIP EQUIVALENCY,
EQUIVALENT OF A FULL TUITION, ROOM, BOARD, BOOKS. CERTAIN TEAMS ARE ALLOTTED A
MAXIMUM NUMBER OF SCHOLARSHIPS. SOCCER, FOR INSTANCE, THEY ARE
ALLOTTED 14 MAXIMUM SCHOLARSHIPS. WHICH THEY CAN DIVIDE UP BUT
NO SCHOOL IS REQUIRED TO GIVE 14. SO MANY GIVE 12, 10 OR 8 AND
STILL DIVIDE THEM UP AMONG AN AVERAGE DIVISION 1 SOCCER
SQUAD IS 27 OR 28 PEOPLE. BASEBALL SQUAD, YOU TELL THIS
TO YOUR NEPHEW, A BASEBALL SQUAD IS USUALLY 35, 38 PEOPLE
AND A MAXIMUM OF 10-AND-A-HALF FULL SCHOLARSHIPS THAT CAN BE
DIVIDED UP AMONG SOMETIMES 30 OR 40 PEOPLE. SO PEOPLE ARE GETTING A 10%
SCHOLARSHIP AND THAT DOES NOT COMPENSATE IT FOR THE MONEY
THAT WAS INVESTED UP FRONT BY THESE FAMILIES. WE DON’T KNOW THAT. IN COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES
AND THE NCAA, THEY ARE PROTECTIVE OF THE INFORMATION
AND BY NOT HAVING THIS INFORMATION, IS ENCOURAGING
FAMILIES TO MAKE POOR DECISIONS BECAUSE THE MONEY
ISN’T THERE AND THE AVERAGE AMOUNT YOU WOULD GET FOR, SAY,
A SOCCER SCHOLARSHIP IS ABOUT $15,000 A YEAR.>>IF THEY HAD MORE OF THIS
INFORMATION, PERHAPS THEY CAN MAKE WISER DECISIONS FOR THE
FUTURE.>>I WOULD HOPE SO.>>MR. ECKSTEIN, THANK YOU SO
MUCH FOR COMING ON THE SHOW. AUTHOR OF HOW COLLEGE
ATHLETICS IS HURTING GIRLS SPORTS, THE PAY TO PAY
PIPELINE.>>THANK YOU.

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