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Outside the Lines:
Campus Activists


Here's the transcript from Show 57 of Outside The Lines - Campus Activists

Host: Bob Ley, ESPN.
Story reported by: Tom Farrey,
Guests: Dave Meggysey, NFL Players Association; Roy Kramer, Commissioner of Southeastern Conference; Casey Jacobsen, Stanford basketball player and member of the Student Basketball Council.
Coordinating producer: John Ebinger.

Announcer - April 29, 2001.

Big time college sports have never been more popular and profitable selling their product - the play of student athletes.

Unidentified Male - We're going to make a lot of money (unintelligible) rich and powerful institution in this country.

Announcer - Now, the Steelworkers Union is advising athletes who want to band together to press their demands.

Unidentified Male - We're not organizing players. The players are organizing themselves.

Unidentified Male - Sooner or later, our voices are going to be heard.

Announcer - Today on Outside The Lines - whether this latter-day campus activism will catch fire with college athletes.

Outside The Lines is presented by State Farm Insurance.

Joining us from ESPN studios - Bob Ley.

Bob Ley, host - It's a scene straight out of the 1960's, and today it enters its 12th day. Harvard University students continuing to occupy the main administration building, demonstrating in support of a higher minimum wage for university workers. Underlying this retroactive campus activism is the belief that a school with a $19 billion endowment should be able to afford to pay employees at least $10.25 an hour.

Now, the NCAA basketball tournament has a $6 billion television contract, and in football, the four-game-a-year bowl championship series negotiated a contract worth more than $1/2 billion. So, should a college athlete be satisfied simply with tuition, room and board, and books? One player asking for more is easy to tune out; but athletes joining together on more than one campus would be more difficult to ignore.

And for the powers that be, perhaps their worst nightmare. And players have that right according to a recent ruling allowing teaching assistants at NYU to organize a union. Consider this new and small player movement is working with the same union where Marvin Miller first made his name before his triumphant turn as the head of the baseball player's union.'s Tom Farrey looks at why and how this player activism has come to life.

Tom Farrey, ESPN correspondent - Ramogi Huma has no job and little money. He's nearly a grad student at UCLA, where he once played football. But he may be the most dangerous man in college sports, because he has an idea - that college athletes should have a say in how they're treated.

He's formed a group - the Collegiate Athletes Coalition.

Remogi Huma, College Athletes Association founder - Our ultimate goal is to establish a national players association in division one football so that we can have a voice for our concerns, and so that we have a power base to influence NCAA legislation.

Unidentified Male - We're getting a free education here, we're getting our books paid for, we're getting food and those types of things. But, as you know and as I know, there's more to that. We're out here banging our bodies around every day and, you know, our knees are in jeopardy -- every part of our body's in jeopardy. And, you know, down the road when we start having problems, you know, that's where the CAC -- you know, that's one of the things they're looking at getting us. You know, benefits later on in life.

Unidentified Male - I'm walking out for -- I'm getting paid for doing something I love, you know, and it's not necessarily a job. But if I wasn't playing, I would have a job, and I would be getting a lot more than what I'm getting paid for for doing this.

Farrey - In the NFL, about half of all revenues go to player salaries. At UCLA and most big-time college football programs, the players get less than 10 percent in the form of scholarships.

But Huma's group isn't asking that collegians get paid like NFL players. For now, they've kept their demands modest.

They want year-round medical coverage in case they're injured during a voluntary workout, not just an official game or practice. They want their scholarships to cover the actual cost of attendance which, in many schools, is about $2,000 a year more than what their grants provide. And they want the NCAA insurance policy to pay more than $10,000 if they die during a team event.

Unidentified Male - We're out there working hard every day; out there on Saturday's busting our butts, making millions and millions of dollars for the school and for the NCAA.

Farrey - Devard Darling is a receiver for Florida State. His teammate and twin brother, Devaughn, died in February when he collapsed in an early morning workout. His family says the $10,000 death benefit won't even cover the cost of burying Devon.

Devard Darling - Just $10,000? I mean, they'll spend more money on us to get ACL surgery done.

Farrey - Huma says the CAC hasn't approached Florida State yet out of respect for the players' grieving period. Presently, only UCLA has formed an official campus chapter; but he's talking and visiting with players around the country. He hopes to sign up at least a half dozen more teams by the start of next season.

Huma - At that point the NCAA's going to have to listen.

Farrey - Leo Gerard is head of the United Steelworkers of America. At Huma's request, the union, one of the continent's most powerful, is helping the CAC.

Leo Gerard, USWA secretary-treasure - We've committed a lot of our resources, in the form of personnel help, legal help, marketing help, media advising. We've committed a lot of our organizational skills to basically teach the group of student athletes how to organize themselves. So, we're very committed to this.

Huma - I think they do see this as a -- more of a labor issue, and I think that's what got their interest in there, because although, technically, we're not employees, I think the steelworkers see a lot of parallels.

Farrey - Could there be strikes? Players refusing to play?

Gerard - Look, we're not interested in doing that. I think when enough of the student athletes have organized, when enough of the students are able to speak through the coalition with one voice, there's going to be an outcry from the public.

Farrey - The NCAA is monitoring Huma's work. Last summer a PAC-10 college official wrote that the NCAA prefers that athletes use the existing process to voice their opinion. He also issued a warning -Current UCLA players could face a problem with their eligibility the CAC reimburses them for any expenses in organizing other teams.

Gerard - I'm very interested in finding a student athlete that they would allege violated the rules and sue their butt off. I think this is just absolutely terrible. It's against everything that this country stands for -freedom of expression, freedom of association is a fundamental right of a democracy.

Farrey - But the rights of college athletes aren't so clear.

Does football ever feel like a job for you here at UCLA?

Unidentified Male - It does.

Farrey - UCLA safety Jason Stevens says he puts about 30 hours a week into his sport. On the day we caught up with him, he was skipping one class because he said, that was the only time that morning he could receive treatment on an injured shoulder.

Unidentified Male - I mean, I love playing the game, and, I mean, that's for the most part, I mean, why I'm here.

It's the love of the game, but then it also does take it's toll on you. I mean, physically and mentally.

Farrey - For this, Stevens gets a stipend of $820 each month to cover rent, food and other daily expenses.

Unidentified Male - I've gone through days where I don't eat at all, I just come to practice and not have eaten. I won't eat until I get home, from after practice and school. With time, and not having money, it's kind of hard to fit in meals and things like that, so -- I mean, I'll try and squeeze in , maybe, some Pop Tarts for in the morning for breakfast, when I'm running out. But usually if I -- unless I eat something small between classes I don't eat until after the day's over.

Unidentified Male - We're really not looking for too much sympathy, you know, we realize we're in a fortunate position, but there are changes that should be made, given the scope of NCAA sports right now.

Farrey - In the end, the success of the CAC may depend not just on the commitment of current players, but the resources of former players. In fact, one NFL Players' Association official told Outside The Lines that he would encourage his union to lend its assistance. That could make things very interesting.

For Outside The Lines, I'm Tom Farrey.

Ley - And when we continue, I'll be talking to that union official, Dave Meggysey, as well as the commissioner of the SCC Roy Kramer and Stanford All-American basketball star Casey Jacobson.

Ley - College athletes organizing to press their demands.

I'm joined this morning by Dave Meggysey; he played seven years in the National Football League and he's now the Western Director of the NFL Players Association. He's in Chicago. Joining us from Birmingham, Alabama, is Roy Kramer, in his 11th year as commissioner of the Southeastern Conference. Casey Jacobsen averaged 18 points per game this season for the Stanford Cardinal; he was a finalist for both the John Wooden and Naismith Awards, and he is in Palo Alto.

Good morning, all. Let me begin with you, Dave - What can the NFLPA -- the players union -- do? How can you help these students who are trying to organize?

Dave Meggysey, NFL Players Association - Well, let me say, first off, is that my supporting this effort is -- has been there for about 30 years, since I wrote my football autobiography "Out of Their League" some 30-odd years ago. Regarding the player's association, the decision of whether we support this decision or not is made by our board of player representatives, and they have not discussed that issue.

Ley - But there are things that you can do; you can speak out...

Meggysey - Right, and I am doing that personally because my own personal view is that it's long overdue for college athletes to begin to organize and to begin to press for the kinds of demands that they're pressing for right now. So from a personal standpoint, I definitely am behind them.

Ley - Roy, what's wrong with any of that organizing, speaking with one voice?

Roy Kramer, SCC commissioner - Well, first of all, let me say this - I think we have to start with where benefits exist for the student athlete today. The student athlete does get a full scholarship, tuition fees, room and board is probably the most -- highest scholarship provided by any of our institutions any way. There's no payback, there's no loans.

Secondly, in addition to that, the student athlete -- it's available -- who has a need factor for the Pell grant. That up to $3,000 a month -- $300 a month for all kinds of needs. In addition to that, we have the Special Assistance Fund, where the student athlete can get all kinds of assistance. He can get his trip home if his mother's sick, he can get his teeth fixed, he can get $500 for clothing in a number of ways.

And in addition to that, we're expanding that under the new NCAA agreement of the tournament with CBS, to include an additional $750 million over the next 10 years to help the student athlete approach the total cost of education.

So, I think the NCAA's taking significant steps in that direction. And to the student athlete, there's already an enormous avenue open through the student advisory committees that the NCAA has, where -- who have direct access to the governmental process of the NCAA today.

Ley - Dave, I saw you shake your head.

Meggysey - Well, I just think that's a little bit disingenuous. And I think that if you back up and say, well, really the money is just too great now for the athletes to not understand that they are getting the short end of the stick in this. And I think it's in response to what the athletes have put together that the NCAA is finally making some moves toward making the system a little more equitable.

And I think what you need to do is really separate out the revenue-producing athletes that go to the 50 power schools. All the revenues that these athletes ultimately generate, primarily men's basketball and football, pay for the total costs of the athletic departments, including the multimillion-dollar salaries that the coaches and the officials of these athletic departments receive.

And what these departments are is, they are sports entertainment adjuncts to the university, and they're extremely profitable, as we know. And I think the athletes are finally realizing that just the four years of opportunity to graduate -- just the opportunity, is really not just compensation for the time and energy and what they produce, in terms of sports entertainment...

Ley - OK, so let me ask Casey Jacobsen. Casey, to use Dave Meggysey's term - Are you getting the short end of the stick?

Casey Jacobson, Stanford Cardinal - I definitely think that we are. You know, we are lucky -- I really feel lucky to be at a place like Stanford, and I do get a full scholarship. And I'm not saying that that's not enough, because sometimes, you know, it feels like it is, and I'm truly lucky to have it.

At the same time, college athletics has reached a level that is unfathomable. I can't, you know, comprehend the money that is being made off of student athletes...

Ley - Well, let me give you a number, because it's from Stanford's official statistics - your freshman year the basketball team made $4.7 million gross, and profited $2.5 million.

Jacobson - You know, that's a huge amount, so if -- and the student athletes are in a hard place. If we say something, then we're looked at as, you know, selfish -- what, your scholarship's not enough? You know, all the benefits that you get being a student athlete aren't enough?

But if we don't say anything, then we're saying that it's OK for everybody else to make money and for us to be used. And I don't think that's all right.

Meggysey - And I think that you used the word, Casey -- it's "used," and maybe you don't want to say it, but there's exploitation going on. And really, it is a situation of equity, and what the athletes, given the amount of money they produce, and given the amount of money they receive -- and many athletes who come to the college campuses come from poor families. They don't have the means. And basically, as is indicated in your opening piece, are barely surviving just to play their sport.

And I think the other part of it is, is that these athletes subsidize and support all the other non-revenue producing athletes. They produce the money that pays for the coaches' salaries that runs the entire athletic departments at these 50 major schools; the power schools that produce the most revenues.

Now, I think you have to separate the revenue-producing athletes from the other athletes and treat them differently because, in fact, they are producing the money, where the other athletes are not. And if schools want to have athletic programs for swimmers and gymnasts and the rest of it, that's the decision of the schools. But I don't think you should necessarily have the athletes who produce the revenues in revenue-producing sports subsidize the whole athletic department and pay for everything that the athletic department does.

Ley - OK, you raise the word "exploitation," you raised the question of separating the revenue athletes away. Roy Kramer's going to get a chance to respond to that.

When we do come back from break in just a moment, we will have more with Dave Meggysey, Roy Kramer of the SCC and Stanford All-American Casey Jacobsen in just a moment.

Ley - On the issue of campus activism, we continue with Dave Meggysey, with Roy Kramer and with Casey Jacobsen.

Roy, it's certainly not the first time you've heard the word "exploitation" used in connection with big-time college athletes -- you can respond to that -- but also, what about the idea of finally recognizing that the basketball and football players bring the money in, drive the economic engine, and should be treated separately and differently?

Kramer - Bob, that argument has been there since day one. Obviously, that doesn't work...

Ley - But the money's bigger than ever now...

Kramer - ... issues today of women's athletics totally prevents that from occurring, so we treat all of our athletes the same, and I think that's tremendous. I think a world-class swimmer should have the same benefits as a football player or a basketball player, and that's one of the great tenets of the NCAA. And it will always be that way, I believe, based on its context within higher education.

I understand what's there, and I do understand that there's a need to take a look at some of the costs of education and to change some of those as we move into the 21st century. But to treat athletes as a separate class of athletes because they happen to play in front of a larger crowd than some other group...

Meggysey - And make billions of dollars, though.

Kramer - ... simply will not work within the context of higher education. Those dollars are spent for a tremendous number of athletes. We're providing opportunities in our conference for some 4,500 to 4,800 student athletes. We, perhaps, have 1,000 athletes who are in our sports of football and basketball. And I think we have to, maybe, understand that -- if we go too far in that direction, we will deny opportunities for literally thousands and thousands of young people who get a college education, who move on in a lot of accomplished ways in society. And I think we have to be very careful how we address this.

Ley - Dave Meggysey, you spoke to a group of athletics directors of the Final Four a couple years ago about organizing players and what not, and these issues. What was the reaction that you encountered?

Meggysey - Well, I think the reaction was pretty...

Ley - You weren't welcomed, were you?

Meggysey - I was not welcomed and, as I told them, it was like kind of an Alice in Wonderland. And my comment to them was, when they were concerned about whether an athlete had a new pair of shoes, whether he was getting money from an agent. And I said to them, don't you think these guys down there playing in the Final Four know what the economics are here?

And I think that, getting back to Roy's point, the point is that these athletes are producing the money. And if the school wants to have programs -- athletic programs for women, for swimmers, for non-revenue producing sports, they can make the decision to do that. But the point that you have to understand and keep in mind is that it's the football and the basketball players -- their efforts on the field, their performance on the field who are basically paying for the whole athletic department in these major schools.

And I think schools can treat them differently. They can be in a separate class and receive some other stipends because they, in fact, are producing the revenues. And I think, when you look at the amount of time that these athletes put into it -- we did a study, and just on the graduation rates of guys in the NFL, and only 30 percent of the players coming into the league have their degrees.

And I think you can do things like offer at least a seven-year scholarship for athletes or subsidize athletes with some money or allow athletes to travel home during the holidays. Very simple things...

Kramer - We have all types of programs to provide opportunities for student athletes to come back today. They can come back; we have all kinds of special assistance funds for those very purposes. A student athlete that wants to come back and get a degree today can certainly find financing to take care of that.

Ley - Casey, earlier Roy talked about working within the system; there's a student basketball council. You have talked to Shane Beatty about that. Do you see that making any progress -- working within the existing structure the way it is now?

Jacobson - We don't really have that much confidence that whatever, you know, the student basketball council comes up with is really going to make a difference and the NCAA's really going to take a look at.

Meggysey - And I agree with you.

And I think the other question is, is the athletes, very much like the Olympic athletes -- the athletes who are producing the revenues really don't have a seat at the table to really talk about their interests and really talk about their demands.

And I think this is going to have to be a point, like in professional sports, in football, baseball, basketball, where you really have to threaten, or be available and able to shut down the games. And I think when you get to that point, then the officials, owners, NCAA officials -- whoever they are -- are really going to listen and address the problems that the athletes face.

Jacobson - But we don't really want to get to that point...

Meggysey - Well, I don't think you do want to get to that point, Casey, at this point. But I think that every professional athletes organization that has become a union has had to really look at that as a very serious option, because if you don't look at that as a serious option, the people who are in the governance, which you're facing, it's always you're asking. We used to call it collective begging as opposed to collective organizing and trying to get something done.

So I just want to put that out there. And, yes, it would be great if the NCAA moved toward you and started to give you the things you need and, particularly around -- for football players -- around the injury question.

Ley - Roy, quickly, in one sentence -- we're about 15 seconds -- do you think the student activism has a chance of being hijacked by unions like the steelworkers and the NFL?

Kramer - Well, if it goes to far in that direction, I think you would see a totally different climate, because higher education is simply not going into the area of employer-employee relationships. They are student athletes. You've got to remember that less than 5/100th of a percentage of them ever become professional athletes. We've got to be very careful that we don't run the program...

Meggysey - Well, it was the same argument for teaching assistants...

Ley - Indeed.

Meggysey - ... and they are now organized.

Ley - And we're out of time. Gentlemen, thank you all very much; Dave Meggysey, Roy Kramer, Casey Jacobsen, thanks for a good airing of this issue.

Next - your feedback on our look at Michael Vick's selection as the first African-American quarterback drafted No. 1 in the NFL.

Ley - Michael Vick, the No. 1 draft pick last weekend; the first African-American quarterback with that honor. And our look last week at the issue provoking pointed comments to our e-mail inbox.

From Cleveland - "The QB position hasn't changed, just the people playing it. NFL quarterbacks are going to earn their bread and butter throwing the football, precisely what the Culpeppers, McNabbs, Brooks, Kings and others are doing, and it's what Michael Vick will do because he is a great athlete. He's a bright young man with the intangibles above the shoulders to learn the nuances of the position."

And from Texas - "I don't believe race has been any issue at all for the last 15 years on the QB question. I believe what you did correctly point out - mobility and athleticism are why more black quarterbacks are starting. Elway, Montana, Staubach, Tarkenton -- not athletes? Not mobile? My point is your show was entirely racially oriented, and that is just not the case in pro sports anymore."

Those e-mails online to us at The keyword is OTLweekly; type it in to be spirited to our site where, of the many requests we do receive, you'll find streaming video of all our Sunday morning programs, as well as transcripts. And we always anticipate you e-mail comments, suggestions and criticisms. Our e-mail address is

And tomorrow - Ramogi Huma, the founder of the CAC with an online chat at 2 p.m. Eastern, 11 a.m. Pacific. Follow the link from the front page at

Announcer - Outside The Lines is a presentation of ESPN, the worldwide leader in sports. For more, log on to

Ley - If you joined us along the way, the program re-airs over on ESPN2 at 1 p.m. Eastern, 10 a.m. Pacific. And a reminder - Our Sunday night Major League baseball game tonight -- the D-backs and the Braves at 8 p.m. Eastern, after "Baseball Tonight."

I'm Bob Ley, we will see you next week. Now Pam Ward, Mike Greenberg with "SportsCenter."

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