Two years after implementation, Prop 62 neither boon nor bane
Predicted as everything from a step in the right direction to a disaster and compliance nightmare, Proposal 62 was controversial legislation that divided the membership on the question of whether Division I student-athletes on full scholarship should be permitted to work during the academic year.
Now, more than three years after the legislation was passed and nearly two years after it went into effect, it is becoming more possible to assess the impact of the rule.
Has the legislation become the compliance quagmire many feared it would become? Has it increased booster influence or infractions? Did it reduce the appeal of agents or illegal gifts? Did it provide student-athletes with an avenue to acquire job experience?
The answers may be surprising.
The legislation has proven to be neither a disaster nor a compliance nightmare. And it seems to have had neither the drastically negative effects some people feared nor the incredibly positive impact others had hoped.
Before Prop 62, full-scholarship student-athletes in Division I had been able to work during the summer or during breaks, but they were not permitted to hold a job during the school year. In the late 1990s, over a two-year period, the NCAA membership eventually accepted legislation changing that rule.
In 1996, the NCAA Special Committee on Agents and Amateurism proposed legislation for the 1997 NCAA Convention, known as Proposal 62, that would permit Division I student-athletes to work during the academic year. The proposal was designed to provide student-athletes with an opportunity to improve their own financial situations and in the process reduce the temptation to accept money and gifts from sports agents or other sources. The committee's other stated intent was to provide yet another way for student-athletes to enjoy the same benefits of undergraduate life that nonathletes enjoy.
Similar proposals had failed at previous NCAA Conventions. Institutional representatives had cited concerns about possible abuses, including student-athletes receiving compensation for work not actually performed or being compensated at rates not commensurate with the position or the student-athlete's experience.
As initially proposed by the committee, Prop 62 would have permitted Division I student-athletes to earn legitimate on- and off-campus employment income during the academic year, provided such income -- in combination with other financial aid included in the student-athlete's individual limit -- did not exceed the student-athlete's cost of attendance.
During the Convention, a heated debate preceded the vote. Though it appeared initially that the legislation would fare as poorly as it had in the past, there was a significant difference. Members of the NCAA Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), which favored the legislation, lobbied long and hard for it, persuading many athletics administrators to reconsider their position on the legislation.
As passed, the legislation provided that student-athletes could earn the difference between a full grant-in-aid and the cost of attendance. But while the vote was over, the debate was not. Much of the opposition to the proposal was based on concerns about the difficulty of monitoring compliance with the legislation's restrictions.
In a guest editorial in the February 17, 1997, NCAA News, Joanne A. Epps, faculty athletics representative, law professor and associate dean of academic affairs at Temple University, spelled out many common concerns of administrators, coaches and institutional presidents, including possible abuses of the allowance as a recruiting tool.
"Wherever the school, student-athletes will be attracted to institutions where the effort invested (in locating and performing the job) is low, while the rewards (dollars for time invested) are high," Epps wrote. "The 'haves' will have staff to perform these functions; the 'have-nots' will not."
Epps also echoed athletics administrators' concerns regarding compliance, including having to monitor the type of work and ensuring that work is actually being performed and that the compensation is locally appropriate. "Schools with the largest programs won't need a compliance person; they'll need a compliance army," she wrote.
Other concerns included overloading already overworked student-athletes, and the potential for student-athletes to come into contact with overly enthusiastic boosters, perhaps leading to other compliance problems.
In spite of the anticipated time-management issues, several student-athletes quoted in the press at the time indicated that they were interested in at least exploring the possibility of working.
Not every athletics administrator opposed the legislation. Robert P. Mathner, compliance coordinator at the University of Montana, disputed the assertion that the legislation would add to compliance coordinators' duties, and he pointed out that boosters who were inclined to provide improper benefits to student-athletes would attempt to do so, with or without the legislation.
"The 'right-to-work' rule allows student-athletes the freedom to make choices in their lives," Mathner said in March 1997. "Too often we structure student-athletes' lives to such a degree that they can't make good decisions later in life because they have had their hands held through their years in college. Let the athletes make choices, let them find out whether they can handle the stresses of college academics, athletics, social life and employment."
By April 1997, the NCAA Council was concerned enough with several elements of the legislation to make several interpretations modifying the legislation's application. Complicating matters was the fact that the Association was undergoing a restructuring of its governance process.
By early July, the newly created Division I Board of Directors asked Division I presidents for feedback on the legislation. More than 80 percent of those presidents surveyed were concerned enough to support a one-year moratorium on the August 1, 1997, effective date of the legislation.
The Board did just that at its first meeting as the primary hands-on governing body of the new Division I structure, "to permit further evaluation and development of guidelines and processes to initiate, review and monitor student-athlete employment."
At its October 1997 meeting, the Division I Management Council appointed a subcommittee, chaired by Stanford University athletics director Ted Leland, to address several issues surrounding the legislation.
"We had a lot of doomsayers regarding Prop 62," Leland recalled recently. "I actually had one person tell me that we were 'ending college athletics as we know it.' But those problems have not emerged.
"There were predictions of compliance problems, and predictions that it would lead to widespread chaos. It was a bit of a cutting-edge proposal, and I think it just took people a while to work out all the issues."
Leland's group developed a compromise that modified the legislation. The cap was changed to permit student-athletes to earn up to the value of a full grant-in-aid plus $2,000, and athletics departments were permitted to intercede on behalf of the student-athletes to secure employment. Also, the $2,000 would be considered institutional aid and thus not included in the institution's team limits.
"It was a compromise," Leland said. "There is no one program that will make everybody happy. In one camp you had those who didn't want the student-athletes to work (during the academic year) and in the other camp you had those who didn't want any limitations (on the earnings). The $2,000 was a reasonable compromise."
By April 1998, the Board had approved the revised legislation. While concerns about compliance, competitive advantage and time demands on student-athletes remained issues, the membership accepted the legislation and student-athletes began taking advantage of it when it went into effect in August 1998.
Perhaps the most compelling -- and logical -- concern about Prop 62 was that it would create a significant burden on schools. Compliance was virtually a universal concern as athletics administrators envisioned large numbers of student-athletes interested in making some pocket money -- and boosters who might be tempted to give star players phony jobs. Several administrators asked, "Who will watch over all those student-athletes, coordinate the paperwork and monitor the employment to see that they are earning pay commensurate for work?"
SAAC members who supported the legislation responded that the average student-athlete wouldn't have time to take a job, and those who needed work experience and intern opportunities would outnumber those looking for easy cash. And when it comes to cheating, the SAAC offered, that would depend on the institution and its staff.
"There are too many time demands on these kids," said Bridget Niland, a former cross country and track student-athlete at State University of New York at Buffalo and the SAAC chair at the time, noting that she doubted student-athletes would sign up for academic-year employment in droves. "The only time abuse is going to happen is when it's facilitated by a coach or an athletics director," she said in 1998.
David Berst, then NCAA vice-president for enforcement, also said he was not anticipating widespread cheating. "Boosters are willing to follow the instructions of coaches," he said in 1998. "And the abuses we all remember were often the result of the coaches and others who winked at the notion that the boosters should avoid violations."
While the concern was certainly valid, in March 2000 the problem has yet to emerge. The NCAA enforcement staff reports that most of the violations it has seen have been secondary and related to the proper paperwork not being completed in a timely manner.
"People were concerned that there would be major problems, but so far, that apparently is not the case," said Christopher S. Strobel, NCAA enforcement representative II. "Since the legislation has been in effect, there have been about 30 secondary violations that have been processed. All were self-reported by either the institution or the institution's conference, and most of them involved the student-athlete beginning employment without completing the written statement that's required."
Ann G. Vollano, assistant director for compliance at the University of Michigan, was one who thought there would be many more problems than there have been.
"I thought the legislation would be a compliance nightmare," she said, "but it hasn't been because we don't have anybody taking advantage of it. It's been a breeze."
Vollano reports that of the 700-plus student-athletes at Michigan, only 13 are working during this academic year, and only one of those is on full scholarship. Vollano has not heard of problems at other institutions, either.
"I thought from the very beginning that people wouldn't be able to do it," she said. "What with having to set aside time for practice, classes, studying and a little bit of social life, I didn't think they were going to be able to work in the first place, and they haven't."
No time for jobs
While many athletics administrators now agree that the compliance problems anticipated have not yet been experienced, the primary reason seems to be that few student-athletes are seeking employment during the year.
"My own experience at my institution is that the legislation is not widely utilized," said Jean Lenti Ponsetto, senior woman administrator and senior associate athletics director at DePaul University. "Most sports now typically require more of a year-round commitment. Almost everything is year-round now, especially with strength and conditioning."
Ponsetto said two full-scholarship student-athletes at DePaul took advantage of the legislation last year and none has yet this year. She reported seeing no problems at her institution or at others, either in increased compliance work, perceived recruiting advantages or with overly enthusiastic boosters.
"I think most people thought the abuses were going to happen in football and in basketball," Ponsetto said, "but the time commitment of those sports -- plus, I think, the lack of interest on the part of student-athletes -- has resulted in very few people actually working in those sports."
Niland, now a law-school graduate, said she is not surprised at the legislation's effects. "As to the 'nightmare of violations' that so many conference commissioners and athletics directors predicted to occur, but haven't, I don't think it's a surprise to any of us who worked on getting the legislation passed," she said.
"From day one, many of us felt that the administrators were 'making a mountain out of a mole hill.' As we suspected, most student-athletes, especially those in the revenue sports, have chosen not to work during their college tenure.
"The legislation was really aimed at helping those small number of student-athletes, mostly those in Olympic sports, to gain work experience or earn some extra money if they wanted or needed to do so."
Few needy student-athletes seem to be working during the academic year, a trend that effectively negates any beneficial impact the legislation might have had on reducing agent influence or curbing booster involvement with that group.
But the reason those student-athletes may not be seeking employment during the academic year might be a practical one, said Athena Yiamouyiannis, NCAA director of membership services.
"Employment earnings above a full grant may affect their Pell Grant eligibility in future years, so it might make more sense to devote their time to their academics and their sport," Yiamouyiannis said.
Ponsetto said that the one full-scholarship student at DePaul who was able to take advantage of the legislation was a good example of what proponents of the legislation intended. The student-athlete was an all-American in softball, and she was able to take an internship at a marketing firm in the fall of her senior year. With her graduation, the position has evolved into a full-time job.
"I think Prop 62 was an excellent piece of legislation to support student-athletes," Ponsetto said. "I felt it would not be widely utilized, though. And that (under-utilization) seems to be happening in a lot of places."
Stanford's Leland also agrees that the abuses have not yet been seen, while the some of the intended advantages have.
"On my campus, there haven't been that many student-athletes take advantage of it," Leland said. "But it seems to have been 'enabling legislation.' For the student-athletes who have used it, it seems to have worked out well for everyone involved."
Student-athletes agree that there hasn't been much use of Prop 62, the legislation that permits student-athlete employment during the academic year, but they remain appreciative of the opportunity it presents.
"Our team has eight women on it who are all academically and athletically stretched to the limit," said Sara Love Swaney, a tennis player at Southern Methodist University and a member of the Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.
"We are all on full scholarships and reap the benefits of free meals, room on occasion, and all the other perks of being on a college team. Unfortunately, none of us have been able to seek outside jobs. Having the time to do so seems virtually impossible. We haven't been affected by (the legislation), but we were happy the SAAC's voice was heard."
Leah Nilsson, a cross country and track student-athlete at Michigan State University and a member of the Division I SAAC, said some student-athletes don't work because they are discouraged from doing so, but all favor the legislation.
"I received mixed messages about the jobs program," she said. "At Michigan State, the number of athletes participating is growing. I do not know of problems with boosters, but that is not to say they don't exist. It is true that most athletes don't have the time to work, and that some coaches restrict their players from taking a job. However, student-athletes are appreciative of the (rule), in its general sense. They want and need the option to work. This rule frees things up for students in the off-season to earn some money."
Nilsson also said that the required paperwork is a deterrent. "Most athletes feel that there is too much paperwork in the process," she said. "And some question why the NCAA regulates working in the first place. What is it about a scholarship that takes away an athlete's right to work? Is the NCAA really in a position to tell students what activities they can and cannot engage in outside of practice and competition? Booster regulations already cover most abuses."
Lauren Mackey, a graduate student, former volleyball player at Moorhead State and member of the Division I SAAC, has seen the legislation work to student-athletes' benefit.
"I know many people who took advantage of this proposal and are very grateful to have the opportunity to make some extra money without being penalized," she said. "It allowed them to get some consistent job experience over the course of the year, instead of having to find last-minute jobs over the breaks.
"I personally did not take advantage of this, but I was for the proposal because it bettered student-athlete welfare, which is what the SAAC is all about."
Kasey Ryan, a full-scholarship member of the University of Southern California's rowing team in 1998, was one of the beneficiaries of the legislation. Ryan, who majored in nursing, worked 16 hours a month in an emergency room as a technician during the 1998-99 school year. She is now employed in that same emergency room as a nurse. She also had the chance to be a member of Southern California's NCAA championship-winning varsity four rowing team.
"I started working (at the emergency room) full time the previous summer," Ryan said. Because it got me a foot in the door, I didn't want to give up the job at the end of the summer. But I also wanted to row one more year. If Prop 62 didn't exist, I would have had to give up one or the other. My bosses were great about it, and so were my coaches."
Prop 62 permits Division I student-athletes on full scholarship -- who have spent one academic year in residence at the institution and who are academically eligible to compete for the institution -- to work up to $2,000 over their full grant-in-aid.
The institution must keep on file a written statement, signed by the student-athlete and the employer, specifying that the student-athlete's compensation is in no way related to the student-athlete's athletics fame or ability and that the student-athlete is compensated at a fair rate for work actually performed (see NCAA Bylaw 15.2.6 for additional information).
Athletics departments are allowed to assist student-athletes in finding employment, and student-athletes may work for boosters.
One unintended effect of the legislation may have been educating student-athletes on partial scholarships of their ability to work up to the value of their full scholarship before any paperwork is required, said Athena Yiamouyiannis, NCAA director of membership services.
"Student-athletes on partial scholarship have always been able to work during the school year," she said. "Now, if they fill out the proper paperwork, they can work up to $2,000 over their full grant-in-aid."
The NCAA does not require partial scholarship recipients to complete the year residency requirements or the academic requirements unless they anticipate going over their full grant-in-aid limit, but each institution may have additional requirements.
"Institutions may have instituted the same paperwork for student-athletes on partial scholarships, perhaps to simplify the process for the athletics department, or because they think (those requirements) are a good idea," she said. "So student-athletes considering employment during the academic year should first check with their own athletics department."
Yiamouyiannis noted that Division II student-athletes are permitted to earn money at a "legitimate off-campus job" during the academic year. Division III student-athletes' earnings are not monitored, and for the most part, not regulated.