Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott's "listening tour" comes to Seattle, and UW athletes are happy to be heard.
The meeting, ironically, ran long.
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott was on the University of Washington campus Sunday afternoon to sit down with about 30 UW athletes for a discussion about their welfare in general and, specifically, about the increasing time demands that come with competing in a major-college sport.
There was, it turns out, a lot to do in a limited amount of time Sunday, which tends to be a theme for many college athletes. And that’s what Scott is trying to address on his “listening tour” to all 12 campuses in the Pac-12.
“We had budgeted 90 minutes for the meeting, and I think we ended up pushing two hours by the end of it,” UW gymnast Faith Morrison said. “It was funny because we all have these other things to do … but it was a good problem to have, for sure.”
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Morrison is UW’s representative on the Pac-12 Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, a council that last year, for the first time, was given a formal vote in the conference’s decision-making structure. The Pac-12 is the only major conference to give athletes a formal voice.
Scott considers the Pac-12 a leader in the movement to improve the student-athlete experience. In the past two years, the NCAA has addressed some of the economic issues for athletes, notably creating a stipend for full cost of attendance, guaranteeing four-year scholarships and improving post-college medical coverage.
Legislating athletes’ time commitments is the next step. With that in mind, the Pac-12 made two proposals at the NCAA Convention in January: one would require athletes to take two weeks off from involuntarily activities at the end of their season; another would prohibit athletics activity for a consecutive eight-hour period overnight.
“At that session, it was pretty clear that it ended up being a wake-up call for some of our colleagues in other conferences,” Scott said.
The proposals were tabled for a year while conference administrators try to create more comprehensive package to vote on at the 2017 convention. And that’s where Scott’s tour comes in.
Before meeting with UW athletes, he was in Pullman to meet with Washington State athletes on Friday and the week before that he had meetings at Utah and Colorado.
The 30 or so UW athletes who attended Sunday’s session had what Morrison described as a “mature” discussion about the issues.
“Everyone was really transparent and honest and did a good job reflecting on their experiences, which is really encouraging to see,” Morrison said. “You always want everyone to be able to feel safe to talk about their experiences, and it was great that they were able to do it in that setting.”
Scott was accompanied Erik Price, the Pac-12’s associate commissioner for compliance, and Morrison was impressed at how engaged they were.
“They asked a lot of follow-up questions based on things we asked, or things they didn’t understand,” she said. “So that was good. Having a list of question is easy, but really diving in and trying to understand so they can make better decisions on behalf of all of us really spoke to me the most.”
So far, Scott has found that the student-athlete experience can very drastically based on the sport. That, he said, should be reflected in the proposed legislation going forward.
“It’s not really one size fits all,” he said. “There can be certain rules that go across the board, but we realize it’s a very nuanced thing. Certain student-athletes wanted very little limitations.”