President Obama welcomed student athletes to the White House on Monday while bemoaning the politics and quests for ratings that have become pervasive in college sports.

"At a time when legendary conferences are being reshuffled and too many schools have been forced to cut sports, athletes like all of you remind us that at their core, college athletics are supposed to be about a lot more than just network ratings," Obama said at a ceremony honoring NCAA champions from sports like hockey, softball, tennis and lacrosse.

"They're about the shy freshman who develops into a team captain; the underdog who learns how to play in the spotlight and learns how to slay the giant; the roll-player who fights through an injury to play on senior day. It's about playing a game that you love, even if you're not on a full scholarship or even if the only folks cheering you on are your mom and dad."

Obama said he was "particularly proud" that the White House was holding the event to celebrate championships in non-revenue sports, in addition to the traditional ceremonies for basketball and football.

"You may not always be on television all the time, but what you guys do is remarkable, and you are truly great athletes," Obama said.

The president also paid tribute to the women's athletes in the audience, calling the college students "trailblazers" for young women like his daughters.

"There was a time when college women's athletics was relegated to second status," Obama said. "And all of you here are showing the incredible strides that we've made over the last couple of decades."

Attendees at the event included the Minnesota women's hockey team — which featured silver-medal winners from the Sochi Olympics — and multiple teams from the University of North Carolina, Princeton, and the University of Southern California.

"And the West Virginia rifle team is here, although the Secret Service is not sure whether we checked them before they came in," Obama joked.