Obama says colleges should guarantee players’ scholarships, healthcare

President Obama

President Obama attends an NCAA women’s basketball tournament game between Princeton and Wisconsin-Green Bay on Saturday. Obama’s niece, Leslie Robinson, plays for Princeton.

(Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press)

President Obama says universities have a responsibility to shoulder more costs in the forms of guaranteed scholarships and health coverage for student-athletes in an era of unprecedented revenue generated by collegiate sports.

In an interview with the Huffington Post on Friday, Obama called on universities to treat athletes with fairness because they help many schools generate large sums of money.

“Students need to be taken better care of because they are generating a lot of revenue here,” Obama said. “An immediate step that the NCAA could take -- that some conferences have already taken -- is if you offer a scholarship to a kid coming into school, that scholarship sticks, no matter what.

“It doesn’t matter whether they get cut, it doesn’t matter whether they get hurt. You are now entering into a bargain and [are] responsible for them.”


Athletes on scholarship also should be shown a level of leniency from schools and the NCAA when it comes to maintaining their amateur status, Obama said. Although he is against the idea of paying student-athletes or allowing them the right to unionize, he did say it’s unfair that they face the prospect of harsh penalties for relatively minor violations.

“What does frustrate me is where I see coaches getting paid millions of dollars, athletic directors getting paid millions of dollars, the NCAA making huge amounts of money, and then some kid gets a tattoo or gets a free use of a car and suddenly they’re banished,” Obama said. “That’s not fair.”

The president also said universities should bear all costs associated with injuries suffered by student-athletes. Historically, many universities only have helped pay for medical costs when an athlete is on scholarship or while attending school. Some former players have been burdened with expensive healthcare costs stemming from their college injuries.

“You’ve got to make sure that if they get injured while they’re playing that they’re covered,” Obama said.