ESPN’s Jay Bilas calls Steve Patterson’s scholarship comments ‘nonsense’

Posted June 24th, 2014


ESPN commentator Jay Bilas fired back at Steve Patterson on Tuesday after the Texas athletic director criticized him for “making the claim that scholarships aren’t worth anything.”

In an lengthy interview with Sports Business Journal, Patterson continued to discuss how college athletics would evolve if courts determine that the athletes should be paid. Patterson first told the American-Statesman these views in mid-April. He has since done multiple interviews about this topic, never wavering in his core belief.

“It’s absolutely agents and trial lawyers that are the whole reason we’re talking about this,” Patterson told Sports Business Journal during an interview at the College World Series. “You’ve got guys like Jay Bilas out there making the claim that scholarships aren’t worth anything, and nobody says anything to discredit that.”


The Sports Business Journal article was printed Monday. So Bilas took to Austin radio airwaves on Tuesday and said, “What Steve Patterson says is absolutely nonsense.

“I’m sure he’s a nice guy. Met him, I don’t really know him. I’m sure he’s a nice fella, but that’s absolutely nonsense and it’s untrue as well,” Bilas said on The Horn.

“No reasonable person has ever said, nor can Steve Patterson point to anyone that has said or me having said that a scholarship is not worth anything. No one has said that. A scholarship is a very nice thing. I say that all the time.

“What it is, though, is simply an expense that’s incidental a multi-billion industry,” Bilas added. “It’s an expense and a money transfer that the school pays itself.”

The notion of paying players and how that might change college athletics cuts to the heart of the issues being discussed in the Ed O’Bannon trial, currently ongoing in Oakland, Calif. Texas women’s athletic director Chris Plonsky was called to testify as a witness for the NCAA last week.

The University of Texas publicizes the fact that an athletic scholarship is worth approximately $65,000. That total is an estimate based on tuition, books, room, board, athletic training, nutrition, equipment, travel and all things associated with playing for the Longhorns.

Patterson’s belief is that should be enough, that UT operates an amateur business model. Patterson has said repeatedly if an athlete thinks he or she should be paid, “go talk to (NFL commissioner) Roger Goodell.”

“Steve’s problem it that he doesn’t get basic tenets of economics,” Bilas said. “What he says and has said and he has said to me and a room full of athletic directors is that athletes, most athletes, are not worth the scholarship they are provided. That’s clearly not true and total nonsense.

“In that market, athletes are worth at least a scholarship and we aren’t fighting over this, in this regard, if they weren’t worth anything.”

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