Big Ten presidents release statement calling for expanded athlete benefits

FILE - In this July 24, 2013, file photo, Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany speaks at a news conference during the Big Ten conference football media day in Chicago. Delany, who testified Friday, June 20, 2014, in a landmark antitrust suit brought by former UCLA basketball star Ed O'Bannon and others, said the idea of paying players goes against the entire college experience and he couldn't see league members agreeing to it. If players were allowed to be paid, he says his conference likely would cease to exist and the Rose Bowl probably would not be played. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)

A few days after Commissioner Jim Delany testified in the O’Bannon trial on player likenesses, the presidents and chancellors of the 14 Big Ten schools issued a statement laying out the conference’s stance on the changing landscape of college sports.

While saying that compensating student-athletes in football and men’s basketball – the two principal revenue sports – “will skew the overall academic endeavor,” the conference says that it is working with the NCAA to “provide greater academic security and success” for student-athletes.

“The best solutions rest not with the courts, but with us – presidents of the very universities that promote and respect the values of intercollegiate competition. Writing on behalf of all presidents of the Big Ten Conference, we must address the conflicts that have led us to a moment where the conversation about college sports is about compensation rather than academics,” the statement reads.

In order to enhance the academic experience of student-athletes, the Big Ten is proposing the following recommendations:

· We must guarantee the four-year scholarships that we offer. If a student-athlete is no longer able to compete, for whatever reason, there should be zero impact on our commitment as universities to deliver an undergraduate education. We want our students to graduate.

· If a student-athlete leaves for a pro career before graduating, the guarantee of a scholarship remains firm. Whether a professional career materializes, and regardless of its length, we will honor a student’s scholarship when his or her playing days are over. Again, we want students to graduate.

· We must review our rules and provide improved, consistent medical insurance for student-athletes. We have an obligation to protect their health and well-being in return for the physical demands placed upon them.

· We must do whatever it takes to ensure that student-athlete scholarships cover the full cost of a college education, as defined by the federal government. That definition is intended to cover what it actually costs to attend college.

Football and men’s basketball provide the money to support the student-athletes – men and women – who compete in all other sports in the Big Ten and in each major conference. The Big Ten maintains that student-athletes in all other sports “will suffer most under a pay-to-play system.”

By instituting the recommendations listed above, the conference believes it can establish a “21st century system to meet the educational needs of current and future student-athletes.”

From the statement:

“The amateur model is not broken, but it does require adjusting for the 21st century. Whether we pay student-athletes is not the true issue here. Rather, it is how we as universities provide a safe, rewarding and equitable environment for our student-athletes as they pursue their education.”

The whole statement can be read here.

- - - - - - -

Sam Cooper is a contributor for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!