Last Thursday, several students were awarded the 24th annual Frank Deford and fourth annual Aaron Pinsky ’06 awards in Bronfman Auditorium, presented by ESPN basketball analyst Jay Bilas. After the presentation of the awards, given to the top student sports information assistants, Bilas presented a talk titled “The State of College Sports” and answered questions from the audience. This year, the Frank Deford award was presented to Megan Casey ’13, Darren Hartwell ’13 and Jimmy Ray ’13. The Aaron Pinsky ’06 award was given to Jake Abrahams ’14 and Taylor Foehl ’14.
To begin the ceremony, Sports Information Director Dick Quinn explained the history of the awards. When Quinn began his career at the College in 1989, he believed that there should be an avenue for honoring students who made significant contributions to the sports information office. He approached Frank Deford, a distinguished writer for Sports Illustrated and National Public Radio sports commentator, and Deford allowed an award to be named in his honor. Quinn then described the Aaron Pinsky ’06 Sports Broadcasting Award, designed to honor his memory after Pinsky passed away from inoperable brain cancer in 2010. Both the Deford and Pinsky awards are designed to commend Ephs with a similar passion to sports broadcasting.
In order to better illustrate Pinsky’s legacy, Quinn invited President of Southwestern University and former professor of mathematics at the College, Edward Burger, to share remarks. Burger recalled teaching Pinsky, a diehard Red Sox fan, in a tutorial with a partner favored the Yankees. “Williams will have an impact on you, but in rare instances you will have an impact on Williams,” Burger said. “Aaron [Pinsky] was one of those rare exceptions.”
Quinn then introduced the winners of the Pinsky award: Abrahams and Foehl. Abrahams plays on the men’s golf team and covers men’s and women’s hockey. “You’re gonna hear about this guy for a long time,” Quinn said. Foehl, a squash player, has covered nine sports for the sports information office.
Quinn then announced the recipients of the Deford award: Casey, Hartwell and Ray. Casey, a softball pitcher, contributed as a sportswriter and broadcaster and is known for getting no complaints during her football broadcasts – no small feat, according to Quinn. Hartwell plays varsity football and baseball and besides covers men’s hockey at the College. He has reported on the Red Sox and Bruins, and will report on the Patriots over the summer. Ray, the captain of the baseball team, has served as lead statistician during football and basketball games this year.
Bilas then began his address on the state of college sports, explaining why he dislikes the term student-athlete frequently used by the NCAA. He referenced his time as a basketball player at Duke, where he felt like a student in class and an athlete on the field rather than both simultaneously. He cited this as an example of how all the NCAA does is tell others what to do.
Bilas centered his talk on a question specific to college athletes: whether or not they should be compensated for playing. Although many people ask him if college athletes should be paid, Bilas rephrases the question as “Why should an athlete be restricted?” While the current system prevents athletes from receiving any form of compensation for playing, Bilas sees no reason why an athlete should be prevented from being compensated for endorsements. Bilas calls this system “the Olympic model,” named for Olympic policies that allow athletes to retain endorsement deals even though they cannot be paid to compete for their home country.
Bilas argued that restricting college athletes prevents players from realizing their full market potential, resulting in inequality of earning opportunities for athletes and non-athletes. While other students can make profits from writing books in college or producing music, the NCAA prevents athletes from earning income by using their talents.
He suggested that instead of leveling the playing field between student athletes and non-athletes, the NCAA’s policy of restricting athletes in fact widens the gap between the two groups. “I’ve never heard a policy justification I agree with on why athletes should be restricted,” Bilas said.
At the end of the discussion, Bilas opened the floor for questions from the audience, addressing his penchant for tweeting rap lyrics, the logistics of playing time distribution and the implications of unrestricting athletes.