The announcement that the University of Southern California would give four-year scholarships to revenue sports like men's and women's basketball as well as football got us wondering what other sports would make it worthwhile for USC to offer the similar initiative.
Before going into the list, it's worth noting that this isn't that significant of a change. Under the former policy, where student-athletes were offered one-year renewable scholarships, there was no reported instance of USC not renewing a player's scholarship after a year because of the player's on field performance or inability to participate because of an injury.
A player could lose his or her scholarship if he or she violated team rules or did not meet academic requirements and was not allowed to participate in NCAA competition the following season. These exceptions will still apply under the four-year scholarship deal, so the change is really just a symbolic gesture, but man timing is everything.
"In taking this action, USC hopes to help lead the effort to refocus on student-athlete welfare on and off the field," Haden told USCtrojans.com
Effective July 1st, USC will offer, and in the process extend, all revenue sport athletic scholarships complete four-year commitments. This symbolic gestures reminds every recruit or student-athlete that the administration really does have the well-being of its students in mind, particularly with regards to their performance in the classroom.
USC isn't the only school behind this movement. In fact, the entire Big Ten Conference issued a statement earlier this month endorsing four-year scholarships to all student-athletes. Even if "a student-athlete is no longer to compete, for whatever reason, there should be zero impact on our commitment as universities to deliver an undergraduate education."
However, some people around college sports, like Colorado men's basketball coach Tad Boyle, are a bit peeved by the hoopla over the announcement. Boyle, who has offered four-year scholarships to all of his players since the NCAA change a rule in 2011 that allowed schools to grant four-year scholarships, told Yahoo! Sports that it's good to see more schools moving to the four-year model, as that's clearly in the best interest of the players, but he isn't sure why some schools are now starting to do it all of a sudden.
"Well, the schools that are coming out today or the conferences that are coming out today saying, 'We're going to go to this four-year scholarship agreement.' They could have done it two years ago. In fact, I know our program did start doing it two years ago."
With the all the debate over player compensation, especially with the ongoing Ed O'Bannon case and Northwestern unionization movement, it's no surprise that schools are realizing they need to do a better job of sticking up for their students, both because of the inherent value in doing so and for the sake of recruiting.
So why doesn't USC just offer all eligible student-athletes four-year scholarships instead of renewable one-year scholarships? Apparently, the investment is only worthwhile for those participating in the three big revenue sports.
Wait a minute, there are three revenue sports?
Football of course brings home the bacon for everyone else at the table both from gate receipts and media rights agreements. USC men's basketball certainly hasn't sold out the Galen Center many times recently, and the program doesn't necessarily turn a profit each year, but it makes enough revenue from TV deals to offset a lot of the money spent on the program.
The same could be said for women's basketball, where not even the big name teams like Connecticut or Baylor turn a profit, but they make back a lot more than any other women's sport because of the exposure women's basketball gets on television in the most recent television deal with Pac-12 Networks.
So which sports may be up next for four-year scholarships? The answer is probably all 18 of the remaining sports before any one in particular, as no other sport brings in comparable revenue. While they make not make a whole bunch of money, they do contribute to the bottom line of winning. In recent memory, men's water polo has won each of the last six national championships under Jovan Vavic while men's tennis has now won five of the last six for coach Peter Smith.
How soon will we see colleges make the next step and offer all student-athletes four-year scholarships?
There's no way of knowing exactly when, but student-athletes certainly seem to have all the momentum recently and there appear to be big shakeups in the future dynamic of college sports. In the meantime, Haden's program will keep reaping the benefits of putting student athletes first, even once other schools catch on and do the same.