Dartmouth Basketball / Weekend Wall Street Journal / Article Written by Dartmouth's President


Well-known member
Hanover, N.H.

You could be forgiven for mistaking March Madness, college basketball’s celebrated tournament, for a professional sporting event. Yet the performance obscures two realities: First, not all college sports are the same. There is a wide disparity between Divisions I, II and III, and even within Division I itself. Second, athletics plays different roles at different institutions. At many, varsity athletics is a means to a well-rounded education, not the end itself.

That is Dartmouth’s model: We organize teams not to sell tickets but because athletics contribute to our students’ educational experience. Our men’s basketball team wishes to change that and, on March 5, voted to unionize. Dartmouth disagrees, and we’ll go all the way to the Supreme Court if that’s what it takes to prevent this misguided development from taking hold.

Our resistance to the decision isn’t because we oppose labor unions.

Dartmouth has more than 1,500 union employees across five unions—including campus services employees, library workers, and teaching and research assistants—all of whom we are proud to work with through collective bargaining. Our goal, instead, is to preserve nonprofessional collegiate athletics in the Ivy League.

Many schools are built to optimize revenue in today’s billion-dollar college sports industry. For these schools, National Collegiate Athletic Association President Charlie Baker’s proposal that athletes receive direct payments for their contribution may make sense. Perhaps in these circumstances where college athletic programs are run, managed and monetized like a professional sports league, unions do too. But that isn’t Dartmouth, nor is it the Ivy League.

Dartmouth’s men’s basketball program doesn’t sell out arenas, make millions on television deals, pay its coach a fortune, or run a program that enables its players to cash in on major name, image and likeness endorsement deals facilitated by collectives and donors. That’s OK, because we aren’t trying to turn a profit with sports. Athletics are an important part of our students’ academic experience. Alongside courses in philosophy and neuroscience, our athletes learn about overcoming failure, developing as leaders and working toward common objectives.

Professionalizing our sports programs would fundamentally alter one of the tenets of our collegiate arrangement. The Ivy League was founded as an athletic conference on the principle that academics is the priority. Students don’t receive athletic scholarships; they are awarded financial aid based on need alone. We announced last month that starting next academic year, it will cost no more than $5,000 a year to attend Dartmouth for all qualified undergraduate students from families with typical assets less than $125,000.

Whether students choose to enhance their collegiate experience through varsity sports has no bearing on their financial aid, course of study or ability to pursue a successful career. If we moved to a professionalized model by which we give athletic scholarships or pay students for their time playing, our focus on their education and how we financially support those who need it would become subsumed by their role as employees.

Professionalizing our men’s basketball team would undermine Dartmouth’s academic mission of educating students to become influential leaders. Only a handful of our tens of thousands of graduates have gone on to become professional athletes. While we are proud of their achievements, our objective isn’t to become a pipeline to the National Basketball Association. Sports are a part of our educational experience because they help produce collaborative citizens and future leaders. Employing students for something that should complement their student life would distort their educational experience beyond recognition.

Such a change also ignores the lessons we’ve learned about the benefits of athletics in education and could potentially curtail athletic participation more broadly. I was a competitive soccer player growing up and brought my love of sports into my career as a cognitive scientist. My research on athletics’ effects on the brain has shown that sports can be a powerful complement to a rigorous classroom education, from teaching us how to practice to perform at our best to learning how to tune out distractions that would otherwise cause us to choke under pressure.

Yet if our college were to turn toward a professional-athlete model, sports would become the outcome rather than an element of the educational experience. Participation likewise may fall, as sports become simply one job among many and the athlete-coach dynamic is displaced by a boss-employee paradigm.

When our men’s basketball team voted to unionize, we could have accepted the result. We could have begun the collective-bargaining process as Dartmouth has done in every other instance of unionization on campus. But a leader must always ask: Is there a principle worth defending, even if doing so is difficult or unpopular? To preserve the integrity of Ivy League athletics and for students who are also athletes everywhere, the answer is a resounding yes.

Ms. Beilock is president of Dartmouth College.
Sorry, this boy throws the Bull$hit flag! Yeah, Dartmouth College of the $8B endowment and approximately $90,000+ annual cost is mainly concerned with the “integrity of Ivy League athletics”. I will say one thing, that Ivy League education can sure teach one the are of BS as well as the streets of Queens Village and northern Jersey taught me and that is saying something.
Sorry, this boy throws the Bull$hit flag! Yeah, Dartmouth College of the $8B endowment and approximately $90,000+ annual cost is mainly concerned with the “integrity of Ivy League athletics”. I will say one thing, that Ivy League education can sure teach one the are of BS as well as the streets of Queens Village and northern Jersey taught me and that is saying something.
Where in Queens Village?
I agree with Dartmouth 100%!

Outside of most Power conferences, most schools lose money by providing sports scholarships along with the vast infrastructure required to support the various teams.
Outside of the top football and basketball programs, no sports teams provide no revenue whatsoever for the schools.

Television broadcast revenue changed everything when conferences started to receive hundreds of millions of dollars for broadcast rights. Like any televised shows, ratings and the ability to draws audiences, became the factors in contract deals. In order to succeed, schools need stars and winning programs.

The hypocrisy is that, in reality, only a small percentage of schools are in a position to compete under the current unregulated market conditions. The courts and NCAA have opened up a pandora's box that has destroyed the relationship between academics and sports as beautifully outlined by the Dartmouth president.

NIL is a FRAUD. The general public neither knows nor cares about the name, image or likeness of unproven teenage athletes. Most of them will leave college for regular jobs and rely on their educational experience to help them succeed in whatever they end up doing career-wise.

In the ideal world, successful college teams and their players were happy to be competitive and gain recognition for their schools AND be able to raise the needed funds to support ALL of the hundreds of other fellow students in their chosen sports. Much of the federal aid became dependent on providing the same participation rights and became mandatory after federal law required fair and equal rights to all athletes of both(?) GENDERS.

The ideal NIL solution for athletes would have been to enter into contracts completely independent of any university affiliation. In reality, it is only the upper crust of well endowed and brand-established universities that MAKE the athlete well known and mass marketed as a result of the television revenue.
This model automatically excludes most schools and the majority of college players making the whole system unbalanced and unfair. It forces college athletes to leave one school solely in pursuit of a paycheck. The vast majority will fail in that pursuit and give up a valuable scholarship.

The system is broken. Who is going to fix it? Not the NCAA. Not the schools.
That leaves the federal government. Good luck there! Politicians can't even decide the definition of a border and federal funds to schools now involve the definition of male and female.

Maybe all colleges should vote on whether to adopt the Ivy League model and leave the sports out of the mainstream of educational institutions (the world universal model).

If a teen of any age wants to be paid to play sports, the federal government should mandate it their right to do so, but only for professional sports organizations unaffiliated with universities. This should apply to all sports as is the practice around the world.

Return college sports to pure amateur status.
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