The United States Sports Academy kicked off the Friday, Nov. 15 portion of the Academy Awards of Sport with a Sport Symposium comprised of several international sport leaders.
The symposium touched on hot button topics in sport including doping, gambling, corruption and the debate about paying college athletes.
The six speakers included:
- Australian painter Mr. Charles Billich, the Academy’s 2000 and 2013 Sport Artist of the Year;
- Dr. Liston Bochette III, former Olympic decathlete and bobsledder and current Secretary General of the Pan American Olympics Association;
- American sculptor Mr. Edward Eyth, 2013 Sport Artist of the Year;
- Dr. Lee McElroy Jr., an Academy Board of Trustees member, longtime college sports leader and current vice president of athletics and director of intercollegiate athletics at the University at Albany;
- Dr. Norbert Müller, a Mainz University professor emeritus and world-renowned authority on the founder of the modern Olympic Games, Baron Pierre de Coubertin; and
- Dr. Ching-Kuo Wu, the International Boxing Association president widely credited for cleaning up corruption in the sport.
WKRG Sports Director Randy Patrick moderated the session, leading with questions generated from Academy faculty members and the audience.
One high school student asked Dr. Lee McElroy whether student athletes should be paid.
After verbalizing a firm “yes,” McElroy said, “[This debate] is a lot simpler than amateurism versus professionalism. It really gets down to values.”
One of the things that college and sport does for people, the longtime collegiate sports leader said, is act as an equalizer.
“People come from all walks of life. I went to [University of California at Los Angeles] and came from a huge family. No one in my family had gone to college. In school, I had a guy living on my left who was from Bel Air, Calif., who was wealthy and had been all over the world. The guy on my left was from a middle class family in Kansas. What draws you all together are values.”
The issue in question is how a person is to enjoy their experience in a particular environment when he or she has less than others, he continued. The NCAA will have to first adjust the rules of paying student athletes, McElroy said.
“They have to tweak the rules, not reform or transform them, so that the student-athlete receives more than tuition, books, room and board,” he said. “The SEC, including the guys in Tuscaloosa (Ala.), is putting forth a policy to add $2,000 beyond the scholarship. Some may think that’s not a lot of money. When you’re in college, even today, that’s a lot of money.”
The second step for this reform to succeed is for student athletes to manage the financial resources available to them, including the Pell Grant, private and federal loans, and other monies.
“Once these rules are tweaked, we can get away from the ‘professionalism versus collegiality module and talk about values, lifelong learning, and making meaningful contributions to society, not buying an expensive car or getting thousands of dollars,” he said.
The question of corrupt judging in international boxing was posed to Dr. Ching-Kuo Wu, the International Boxing Association (AIBA) president of seven years. One of his first charges was to bring transparency and accountability back to the association. Wu said he’s pleased that tremendous changes have been made, for example, in the selection of referee judges.
Judging in boxing is a particularly important topic for AIBA, the International Boxing Association, he said, because eliminating corruption will restore people’s trust in the sport and its administrators.
“All the judges and referees must receive updated training,” Wu said of the new referees hired and paid by AIBA. “They must be certified and meet certain qualifications. There are evaluations of their performances in competition.”
All referee judges are AIBA-appointed and are not part of any national federations, like they were in the past, so they remain absolutely neutral, Wu said.
After the London 2012 Olympic games, boxing moved up from a Group 4 sport to a Group 3 sport, something Wu called exceptionally great for the international boxing circuit.
When asked how he conceptualizes Olympic and sport art inspired by the human form, sculptor Edward Eyth responded that he thinks of the most fleeting instants in human motion and attempts to cast them in a bronze sculpture, immortalizing them for generations to come.
He modeled his sculpture, “Balance,” after a gymnast dancing on a balance beam. It won the 2008 U.S. Olympic Committee Sport and Art Contest.
Said Eyth: “I tried to capture that one instance of when she just nailed it, and I tried to convey in her face an expression of satisfaction knowing that she did it.
“To me, that is the beauty of art, when you can capture those moments and create something that has so much emotion and so much backstory. That’s what makes me inspired by athletes.”
Dr. Norbert Müller discussed what he thought that Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the Modern Olympic Movement, would think of today’s Olympics and Paralympics.
“Coubertin would be happy about the games today, especially London  and Beijing ,” the Mainz University professor emeritus said. “He would want people to be less spectators and more active in sport.”
Coubertin’s life work was to merge sport and education, and the baron was inspired by a trip in 1889-1890 to sport and academic facilities across the United States, including Mobile, Ala.
“The university athletic programs in the USA, which he witnessed during several study trips from 1889 onwards, amazed him,” Müller said. “Besides visiting the universities in the East of the USA, he also wanted to see an example in the South and, in particular, an example with regards to inter-racial interactions. He wanted to renew the old ideal of ‘body and mind’ with equal importance placed on human education according to the Ancient Greek example.”
To hear more from the United States Sports Academy’s 2013 Sport Symposium, check out the video clips available online at the Academy’s YouTube channel.