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USC athletic director addresses hot-button topics in college sports

Pat Haden weighs in on the impact of issues like 'pay for play' and the O'Bannon lawsuit against the NCAA

by Jordan Moore

In this month’s State of Troy announcement, USC Athletic Director Pat Haden provides his perspective on recent hot-button topics in college sports, including former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon’s lawsuit against the NCAA over the use of player likeness.

Haden on the potential effects of the O’Bannon case …

To be prudent, institutions have to think about what could happen if the NCAA loses the case. In financial terms, it would cost every institution millions of dollars. Schools would have to set that money aside to pay student-athletes for the use of their likeness, which is the crux of the case. In order to do so, institutions would have to shave that money from their annual budget, which could lead to severe downsizing and even the elimination of some sports. No athletic director wants to have to make that decision.

Haden on how ‘pay-for-play’ could work in intercollegiate athletics …

Pay-for-play is a Rubik’s cube that no one has quite figured out yet. I have been beating the drum for two years about doing more for our student-athletes. However, with Title IX and NCAA rules, it is never that simple. If pay-for-play became the standard, we would probably have to pay not just football players, but all of our student-athletes something or we could be in violation of Title IX. And of course, paying student-athletes is a violation of NCAA rules, thus the Rubik’s cube. I think covering the full cost of attendance is a step in the right direction in addition to what we already do for student-athletes, which is considerable. Along those lines, the Northwestern case is still on people’s minds. We are awaiting the ruling from the National Labor Relations Board, but most of what the Northwestern student-athletes are specifically seeking, we already provide to our student-athletes. We do not yank scholarships from players for performance, and we happily pay for former student-athletes to come back and complete their degrees. In terms of health benefits, meals and stipends, we provide the maximum allowed under NCAA rules.

Haden on the big five conferences considering autonomy …

The five major conferences (Pac-12, SEC, ACC, Big Ten and Big 12) are saying that we want to have the autonomy to make decisions that are rational for us that may not apply to everybody. We have to acknowledge that some schools and athletic departments have more resources than others, and each needs to do the right things for their student-athletes. The potential new rules, like feeding players or paying the full cost of attendance, would be considered “permissive legislation” I would hope, so each school would figure out on its own what it can do up to the allowable, but it is not mandatory.

Haden on remembering the power of an athletic scholarship …

While I always want to do as much as we can for our student-athletes, it is important to acknowledge how valuable the scholarship already is. I am the perfect example. I could not have attended USC without a football scholarship, and my experience here built the foundation for my entire life. Football changed my life. USC changed my life. And if you talk to the last four decades of student-athletes who have come through here, I would wager a guess that 95 percent would echo the statement that playing a sport at USC changed their lives. I have seen it over and over and over again. The message from the great majority of our student-athletes, both past and present, is different than the public perception.

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