The chair of the University of Wisconsin Athletic Board spoke on ways to improve student athletes’ college experience as well as the athletic experience 0f all students at a board meeting Friday.
Athletic Board Chair Dale Bjorling announced the creation of two ad hoc committees at the meeting. One will focus on making sure the student athletes are able to make the most of their time at the university and are not only being prepared for professional sports careers, according to Bjorling.
The collegiate level of athletics should not serve as a “minor league” for the NFL and NBA, as many student athletes have alternative career aspirations and do not wish to pursue a professional sports career, he said.
“Why should we force [student athletes] to go for a career that they’re not interested in?” Bjorling said.
Bjorling said if an exclusive NFL or NBA minor league was established, high school players would need to decide whether or not to bypass a college experience, a decision that many may not be prepared for, he said.
High school players are not physically equipped for a minor league system that may include much older players, Bjorling said. However, he said professional leagues should increase playing opportunities for young athletes who do not wish to go to college full time while competing athletically.
Bjorling said the first committee focuses on emphasizing amateurism in college athletics, adding it is essential to redefine the requirements of a student athlete in order to prioritize their welfare.
He said student athletes should be focused on academics as much as their sport, and that they should be able to take advantage of opportunities like studying abroad or completing internships.
“We want to give them a more well-rounded experience for when their skills are exhausted,” Bjorling said.
Bjorling also addressed the negative impact of mid-week travel on student athletes, which was discussed at the last Big Ten meeting.
Bjorling said he would like to restructure schedules to minimize the amount of days that student athletes miss class, while keeping in mind that the athletes want to have good tournaments.
He said the second ad hoc committee, completely unrelated to the first, would help to improve the Camp Randall environment.
“It’s hard to address this because we’ve tried to address some things chanted in Camp Randall in the past, but everything has been consistently unsuccessful,” Bjorling said, referring to the cursing that occurs in the student section at football games.
Bjorling said he would like to improve the Camp Randall environment by having a student-led effort to reach out to other student groups.
He also said officials have weighed the possibility of paying college athletes, but the discussion has been “terminated for the most part.”
“I think that the message is that the payment for athletic performance does not have any support at the conference level and I think it doesn’t have support generally across the country,” Bjorling said.