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National Collegiate Athletic Association vs. Alston [pdf] (supremecourt.gov)
85 points by thestoicattack 39 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 100 comments

The solution in my opinion is to do away with college athletic scholarships and preferred admission for athletes. Let school's field their sports teams from their normal student bodies and ensure that those teams are truly amateur and the participants really are "student-athletes". Let the NBA and the NFL field their own semi-professional minor leagues like baseball does. If these schools have to start paying their football and basketball players (and lets be perfectly clear, that's what this is about), it will be the absolute death of virtually every other men's sport at the college level, and will likely only leave enough women's sports to offset the football team due to Title IX. I won't even get into the ridiculous hypocrisy of our institutions of higher learning pouring billions of dollars into a sport that is proven to cause brain damage, while cutting other sports that don't. That is not at all what college athletics should be about, it should be about extracurricular opportunities for real students. I think the Division 3 model (no sports scholarships/no backdoor admissions) has been much more successful and has provided many more opportunities for students (men and women) to compete in a wider variety of sports. I say this as someone who was a college athlete on scholarship years ago and still coaches high school.

Why do you assume that paying the athletes will have any meaningful impact on expenses? I will be using my numbers from [1]. Coming in at 65 on expenditure, University of Kansas spends $14 million on football. At the time of the article, they hadn't been to a bowl game in a decade and the drought has since continued. I'm sorry Jayhawks, but the program isn't good at all. First, no school is going to remove scholarships because that's an easy way for the university to pay their athletes. Paying the football players $10k per year would only cost an additional $1.05M for a 105 man roster. That's less than 10%. That is easily covered by increasing price of tickets by $2 in their 50,000 capacity stadium over the course of the season. But students watch for free? Well, not really, they already paid in their student fees. So fees have a one time increase of $2. But more realistically, these are football players that will never go to the NFL. They are happy for a free education and the Jayhawks would never pay them in additional to what they give them already. These rules apply solely to the top 10 teams that wish they could pay the top recruit of the nation $100k. I say that all of this is easily fixed by giving the players 10% of their jersey sales. It is completely insane that the NCAA can make money off of a person's likeness and not pay them which is illegal in most states.

[1] - https://www.syracuse.com/orangefootball/2017/08/which_school...

We saw during Covid that as soon as there was a tiny bit of financial stress on athletic departments they immediately started cutting non-revenue sports, here's a fairly complete list from the last year:


You can see from that list that the vast majority of sports that were cut were non-revenue, men's sports. $1.05M lost to paying the football team could just as likely be covered by cutting one or two non-revenue sports as it is by raising ticket prices. The reality is attendance of college football games was already down before Covid, even for powerhouse schools like the University of Georgia:


It is extremely unlikely that even the biggest football schools will be able to cover the cost of paying their players through increase ticket prices when they are already concerned about filling seats.

I wouldn't constitute COVID "a tiny bit of financial stress". That list is clearly temporary cuts. Stanford "cut" all sports programs and now they are all back. Your second article states that fans just prefer to watch on TV. Thus, the schools will make it back in more lucrative TV contracts.

But your entire argument lacks the essential point that salaries will be market driven. That, already, most programs cannot pay for their athletes. That scholarships and world class facilities and coaching are more than sufficient compensation. Scholarships again being pennies on the dollar for the university. We're talking on the order of a dozen schools that are willing to pay and 100 players that will realistically get any type of meaningful compensation.

> it will be the absolute death of virtually every other men's sport at the college level

Why's that?

In the current system, schools need to have an equivalent number of sports teams (and slots) for men and women, with the same number of scholarships (the law governing this is called Title IX). Generally speaking, women's sports don't bring in money for schools, whereas football at a competitive school will bring in money in the form of TV deals and even donations from alumni. So essentially, the football and basketball teams subsidize the rest of the athletic department. If you had to pay the athletes in these sports, then there'd be less money to go around for other teams that don't generate revenue. But at a minimum, you'd still need a few women's teams because of Title IX.

EDIT: to clarify, I personally think it's ridiculous that star college athletes don't get paid given how much time those athletes put in and how much money they bring in for schools, but I also think that at least at the schools with huge athletic programs it'll have some effect on other sports.

>If you had to pay the athletes in these sports, then there'd be less money to go around for other teams that don't generate revenue.

This relies on the assumption that sports are somehow separate from a school's educational mission and therefore must be funded by the profit from other sports. There are a maximum of only 2 or 3 dozen athletic departments that are self sufficient in the manner you suggest. The rest fund sports the same way they fund any other extracurricular activity.

I'm not sure we should require sports to fund themselves when we don't have that requirement on something like a drama or music departments. The understudy in a school play is probably no more likely to make a career out of acting than the backup QB is to make a career out of football, so why do we pretend one is a worthwhile academic pursuit and one isn't?

Your math doesn't work out here. I can't major in football, I absolutely can major in drama and/or music. From my experience, club sports and clubs such as the theater club are funded via student fees, whereas departmental projects such as drama and music are funded via tuition.

In theory, the major areas are self-funding because of the tuition costs.

>Your math doesn't work out here. I can't major in football

Literally, no you can't major in football. From a practical standpoint many of the athletes who go to a school like Alabama to play football do end up majoring in it. Maybe their actual degree will say something sports specific like kinesiology or sports management, maybe their academic advisers will point them to general education classes specifically targeted for athletes and they will end up with a super generic business or communications degree, but either way football is the primary focus for many of them.

>From my experience, club sports and clubs such as the theater club are funded via student fees, whereas departmental projects such as drama and music are funded via tuition.

The point is who funds a play or a concert at universities? Do they all need to be financially self-sufficient or do we accept that these pursuits have value outside of the number of people who will pay to watch them?

>In theory, the major areas are self-funding because of the tuition costs.

This isn't true. The costs to teach different subjects varies wildly and departmental budgets are therefore not always inline with the number of students in each specific program. For example, tuition from an English department would likely go to help subsidize a more expensive Physics department.

you kinda can in a lot of universities with big programs. There's a lot of "sports marketing" and "sports science" majors now that get a little loose with requirements and rigor. when done right, they can be good tools to prep athletes for life after playing (agents, marketing, phys ed instructors and coaches, etc.) but they also run the risk of being places for the football team to sleep through class and get an A for working out and attending video.

Maybe students should be able to major in football? There are music and theater arts performance majors. Is football less important?

There are already football adjacent majors already like sports administration and sports broadcasting.

> There are a maximum of only 2 or 3 dozen athletic departments that are self sufficient in the manner you suggest

By the same token, there's only a few dozen athletic programs with athletes who would probably be paid if not for NCAA rules banning pay.

No, that is a poor conclusion. Athletes are not distributed in the nature you are suggesting. There are profitable players who exist on unprofitable teams and there are profitable teams that exist in unprofitable athletic departments. The reverse is also true.

Honestly the biggest stumbling block for me to be in support of paying college athletes are all these details on deciding who gets paid and how much since they don't all provide uniform value. There are situations in which one person might be worth millions and their teammate might be worth absolutely nothing. That is one of the reasons why I think allowing players to profit of their name, image and likeness (NIL) rights seems like the first step. That allows the free market to better assess their value and reward them for it. Roughly half the states have already passed, are currently debating, or have recently debated laws allowing college players to profit of their NIL rights.

> No, that is a poor conclusion. Athletes are not distributed in the nature you are suggesting. There are profitable players who exist on unprofitable teams and there are profitable teams that exist in unprofitable athletic departments. The reverse is also true.

Fair, but a few schools would be disproportionately affected by paid athletes. Ohio State and Alabama would probably pony up a lot, just as they spend tons on their athletic departments right now. Northwestern probably wouldn't, except maybe in rare cases.

> That is one of the reasons why I think allowing players to profit of their name, image and likeness (NIL) rights seems like the first step.

Agree this sounds like a good first step. It's utterly ridiculous that they can't.

> That allows the free market to better assess their value and reward them for it.

Why is this better than schools bidding on player contracts? Would you argue that when Patrick Mahomes got a $150 million contract, that wasn't the free market making an assessment of his value?

>Why is this better than schools bidding on player contracts? Would you argue that when Patrick Mahomes got a $150 million contract, that wasn't the free market making an assessment of his value?

I think completely open bidding on players will cause more problems. Like I said, you can have teammates in which one is worth millions and the other is worth nothing. They would both be putting in the same amount of work and ostensibly be doing the same job, but one is just drastically better than the other. That might be worse for public perception than them all getting nothing.

I imagine any system of paying players would probably come with both a floor and ceiling for how much a school can compensate a player.

Also this isn't really the point of your comment, but like many athletes Mahomes has never and potentially will never sign a true free market contract with a team. He was drafted by the Chiefs so they had exclusive rights to negotiate with him. His huge extension was negotiated with the Chiefs during his initial contract which means he couldn't field offers from other teams. If he was a true free agent, he would have received even more money. He was willing to take a discount on that value for the added security of signing the contract now and guaranteeing some portion of that money. It is endorsements where someone like Mahomes can see his true free market rate because he can have the Nikes, Adidas, Gatorades, etc of the world competing against each other. Giving college players NIL rights gives them the opportunity to cash in on those free market endorsement deals.

Just to add, the NFL is even more closed-market in that each team has a salary cap. So giving Mahomes more means someone else on the team gets less.

True and superstars like him are often guilted into taking less than their true value so the team still has enough to pay other high quality players.

Alternatively, universities would spin off their money-making teams into professional organizations in return for licensing fees.

The 2-3 huge money-maker sports tend to fund all the rest. Paying athletes real money will cut into those profits (especially if a strong labor market for student athletes develops) with a plausible result being that other sports will be cut as budgets tighten. The only ones that would be for sure safe would be whatever women's sports are needed to achieve Title IX parity with the income-generating men's sports.

Of course, it's also possible that colleges will find other ways to pay for the "lesser" sports, and there would be no cuts.

> tend to fund all the rest

How much 'funding' does an amateur university sport need? I don't think my fencing club at university had any 'funding' we just met and fenced. Occasionally we borrowed a van to go to a competition. We had a coach we paid from a few pounds of membership fees we collected from ourselves.

In the US, in no particular order:

- equipment

- coaches

- travel/hotel/per diems, sometimes long distance depending on league

- trainers

- workout facilities (typically shared)

- practice facilities (might be shared)

- game facilities

- additional dining options to accommodate training

- nutritionists

- doctors

- scholarship money for tuition

- scholarship money for room and board

- video review areas and equipment (shared)

- video recording equipment and videographers

- insurance

- announcers for events

- recruiting

- tutoring

- event management

- publicity/advertising

- title ix compliance official

Note that at some universities (even some high schools), there are self-funding booster clubs that will pay for a lot of this stuff for some sports. That said, there is still some stuff that the university has to pay for directly.

As a simple example, Alabama football (big program that makes tons of money) also funds Alabama’s championship teams in golf, softball, and gymnastics (and many other sports that have not led to national championships).

If money is unlimited, you could come up with reasons to fund all of the junk you've listed. For GP's example of a college fencing team, they need 1) occasional use of a well-ventilated room with a hard floor [and one or two electrical outlets if they're using that fancy electronic scoring] and 2) storage for their equipment when they're not using the room. Literally nothing else is needed. Few fans would ever pay to see fencing, so these actual student-athletes don't need any more compensation than the room and the storage. Equipment can be funded by donations and dues. Coaches should mostly be volunteers, but if someone needs payment that can also be from dues or donated.

(Source: I played on my college club kendo team. If anything the needs of fencing are less than those of kendo.)

At most schools, what you are describing are called “club sports”. These sports have much less funding from the university, and they are ubiquitous.

The next logical question is probably “why aren’t all sports club sports?” The short answer is that varsity football and basketball are often direct or indirect money makers for the school that warrant funding for competitiveness, and title ix that says that there has to be access to sports at equal levels (typically this means a university needs a few women’s sports that have equivalent quality equipment, facilities, etc. as football and basketball).

Yes, I know about club sports since, as I said above, I played on a club team. All college sports should be operated as club sports. Since that's not going to happen for football and men's basketball in USA, it also won't happen for women's basketball and say, probably, women's soccer. Everything else that we're supposed to clutch our pearls about, however? Swimming, track, tennis, baseball, and various other even less watchable sports? Those are club sports. That is not an injustice to swimmers and tennis players. If they had what it takes to be "the best", they wouldn't be wasting their time on a college team.

I just don’t get why a university amateur golf team needs anything but a few people and their golf gear. Why take it so seriously?

It’s a business decision and it’s law.

1. If a certain sports outcome (e.g., beating a rival, league championship, etc.) will lead to an increase in alumni donations, then it might be considered prudent to invest some money into that program.

2. Title ix creates weird incentive structures for athletic programs, with a default assumption being that the university is guilty of discrimination if there isn’t a lot of equal treatment for all sports (both men and women). Note that this has helped funding for women’s sports a lot (the disparity was almost comical in the 80s and prior), but it has also led to the elimination of some fringe men’s varsity sports (some of which became clubs).

Because everyone else you're competing against is taking it seriously.

Please try to step back and understand why people take it seriously and truly care about sports. You don't seem to understand and don't seem to be actually trying to understand. It's exhausting trying to have conversations like the OP topic when people come in and degrade high level sports at its core.

People take sports seriously in other countries as well. I took sports seriously. I just didn’t have an expectation of professional facilities for a social sports team in spare time at uni.

I don't know what more to tell you.

If you want to compete at a high level in the US you often need to fulfill that long list of requirements a few posts above, unless it's a very niche sport.

You can also play pickup basketball down the street with nothing more than the court and a ball. There's nothing wrong with that, but don't expect that to convert to any kind of high level play.

It's fine to care about sports. It's fine to devote most of your time to preparation for competition. It's unseemly for institutions dedicated to academics to divert vast funds to non-academic pursuits. Most of the spending on collegiate sport generates tiny performance gains, and since all college teams are spending this money there is something of a Red Queen situation so those tiny performance gains change cumulative results not at all.

Also, for nearly every sport except football and women's basketball, the real talent in the college age group isn't even playing college sports. Sports are meaningful with or without access to the latest most expensive amenities.

That is an easy argument for an outsider to make in virtually any situation. The answer is probably similar to the reason you aren't doing your programming job on an 11" chrome book.

Other countries don’t even remotely approach social university sports teams like this and still have fun and generate elite athletes.

Outside of the US, elite athletes are often members of non-university clubs. These clubs are supported well and often have very good funding.

From a US perspective:

Most "rec sports" are self-funded university-affiliated student clubs. I was the treasurer of one such club for three years.

My school's cycling team ran about a $20k-$25k/year budget to cover race transportation, motels, entry fees, coaching and an annual 2-night training camp. That was for a full collegiate road season with an average of 6-8 riders and about 75% of a MTB season with 2-3 riders.

Funding came from sponsors (mostly selling space on the team jersey), selling jerseys and bibs to alumni and donations. Most of the sponsors were alums with local businesses, but we also had a couple bigger brands (energy bars and cycling clothing) who gave "in-kind" donations of steep discounts on merch (>50%).

Team members paid for their own equipment. We did discuss buying a couple team bikes to bring in people who could not afford them, but budget constraints and concerns about damage/jealousy/competitiveness nixed the idea.

I'd guess that you could run a competitive "varsity" cycling team, including everything I mentioned above plus mechanics and equipment but excluding scholarships, for around $40k-$50k/year (assuming mechanics are paid a day rate at races and piecewise for maintenance and the coaching staff is not full-time university employees).

I think OP is referring to the spectacle that is collegiate football/basketball/baseball; not that there won't be these teams, they just won't be multi-billion dollar enterprises.

Since the ostensible point of colleges and universities is education in various academic subjects, the absence of high-dollar athletic teams wouldn't be an actual problem.

Yes! This is exactly what I was alluding too in my original comment. I will also add that there are a number of demographic factors that are going to come to a head over the next 10 years or so that are going to put a serious squeeze on non-revenue men's sports:

First college enrollment is likely going to drop significantly starting around 2025 due to severely declining birthrates in the US that started during the 2007-2008 financial crisis. It is expected that 2025 will be the smallest graduating high school class in the US in the last 30-40 years. Every college and university is going to be fighting over a smaller pool of applicants. Fewer people are going to attend games and fewer people will be watching college sports on TV which means smaller TV contracts.

The percentage of men attending college has been declining, in 2017 57% of college students in the US were women: https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=98

And it looks like the declining rate of men in higher education is only speeding up: https://hechingerreport.org/the-pandemic-is-speeding-up-the-...

College men and male alumni disproportionately support college athletics, they attend games and donate to the athletic department more than their female counterparts. Fewer men on campus in the long term likely means less money for the athletic department as a whole: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/nvsm.34

Lastly, Title IX only requires that sports opportunities for both men and women be proportional to the percentage of men and women in the student body. With only 43% of college students nationwide being men now, and football being the juggernaut of college athletics that it is (with typically over 100 players on a college football team), there will be little room left for any other men's sports in college athletics, and no incentive for the athletic department to keep them around.

Over the next decades many men's sports will likely become nearly extinct at the D1 level: tennis, golf, rowing, wrestling, hockey, volleyball, swimming and diving, cross country, even track and field and baseball look to be in big trouble as athletic departments try to keep the revenue from college football flowing in while dealing with these challenging demographic factors.

This would end up killing a bunch of smaller sports, and hurting the larger ones.

NCAA covers a massive number of sports. The vast majority of those who go pro in any US sport, first go through an NCAA team.

Think about a scenario in the current world: You're a pretty good golf player in high school. You commit to Stanford for golf and a degree in some STEM field. The school already has a system in place to make sure both are possible. You give high level competitive college golf a shot and realize you can actually go pro. After college, you do. And even if it doesn't work out, you've got a degree from Stanford.

And then there's your world: You're a pretty good golf player in high school. You go to college instead of the separate LPGA feeder leagues because it's the safer bet and your school doesn't have a system in place to make sure you can compete in both. Why would they? You never get to experience and thrive in the high level competitions and end up not going pro.

So many professional sports would get maimed with your model. After a decade the US would heavily drop on the world stage when it comes to sports.

Sounds like that's a problem for the pro sports leagues to solve. They have the money to do it, so they'll be fine.

Baseball does an adequate job with its system of minor league teams. Pretty much every other country in the world manages to have professional sports leagues without having universities be their feeder teams.

Even in your scenario, there's nothing stopping the aspiring golfer from attending Stanford part-time while they try to make it in pro-golf. Or applying and deferring admission for a couple of years. Frankly, they'd do better academically if they didn't have golf distracting them.

baseball arguably does a terrible job at solving this.

the minor league system pays significantly less than poverty wages. incentivizing kids to go that route instead of getting an education is terrible.

which is why so many dont, and go to college on scholarships anyway, which leads us right back where we started.

the right analogy to make IMO is ice hockey, especially the canadian model. There, you have well funded and professional-like "minor leagues" (called juniors close to same thing). you can't get paid but in the tier 1 leagues you have very little if not zero personal living expenses, it's like being on a full-ride at a big college program with room and board included. In canada, it's seen as the route potential NHLers take instead of continuing with school. you're not allowed to be paid, but there's a rule in place that for every year you play in that league you're owed one full year of college paid for. If you age out of the league and dont make it as a pro, you at least get 2-4 years of free college to go get the rest of your life together as compensation.

The US Junior system has some of those attributes but is more geared towards getting kids into NCAA scholarships. The thing there though, IMO, is that the money involve in that sport is right about at that sweet spot where i'd argue a full ride to school like notre dame or penn state is about right for the level of compensation owed.

all opinions above are my own, in the context of a former D1 ice hockey athlete who thinks the football players should probably be paid.

The Canadian Major Juniors are a great model. Of course, there also players who try out at MJ camps with their names obscured as not to jeopardize their NCAA eligibility.

Baseball's history of labor abuse ( read up on the history of free agency ) is why the Minors are a terrible mechanism.

In capitalist system, if the sport league doesn't make money should the workers be paid anything more than minimum wage?

minimum wage is minimum wage (IMO?), the business losing money only dictates how long that position will exist for, not change the compensation owed for performing employed work.

in minor league baseball, who's indepent teams may be anywhere on the spectrum of losing or making money but who are also affiliated with parent organizations that make hundreds of millions, there is a plethora of literature lately that accuses them of paying significantly less than US minimum wage. In many cases it appears the players pay them for the right to play when it's all done.

in the college hockey example i referred to, the D1 teams/leagues usually have decent revenue from tickets and tv deals but it's not a ton and i'd take a shot in the dark that most programs are pretty much breaking even after scholarships, staff, and facilities are accounted for. In that environment, having an athlete get "paid" maybe a $40k/year total package in scholarship, room and board, playing equipment and facilities use, and cash per diems on road trips is both above minimum wage and probably no more than they could reasonably expect if the league was "pro" and had nothing to do with college.

> Even in your scenario, there's nothing stopping the aspiring golfer from attending Stanford part-time while they try to make it in pro-golf.

Does Stanford allow part time undergraduates? A brief Googling suggests that generally they do not, unless there are special circumstances, but it wasn't clear what would count as special circumstances.

NBA? Sure. NFL? Yeah. They can probably fund and figure out the logistics for an operation like this.

What about all the other sports? At the moment, we've figured out a way to elevate less lucrative sports like track & field or swimming into a potential profession without making young people take massive risks by skipping higher education.

NBA? Sure. NFL? Yeah. They can probably fund and figure out the logistics for an operation like this. What about all the other sports?

I'm really struggling to come up with a reason this is the academy's problem to solve.

Its society's problem to solve. We shouldn't do away with college sports without a replacement avenue for people to get into high level sports.

Most people who want to do away with college sports seem okay with killing their professional leagues. We shouldn't be okay with that.

> Most people who want to do away with college sports seem okay with killing their professional leagues.

Not at all. I just believe professional leagues will be fine with or without near-professional-quality college teams. There's far too much money in professional sports for them to die out just because universities don't field teams. I refer you to European soccer leagues for an alternative model.

Moreover de-facto professional athletes playing for a pittance and getting a poor education on top of that makes my blood boil. Pay them proper wages and don't screw up their education. College football and basketball teams also have a tendency to suck up resources and attention away from the actual purpose of a university - which is to perform research and educate people.

It's exhausting to have to remind people in this thread that I'm talking about way more than the money maker sports.

There's not "far too much money" in professional swimming or track & field. Killing the college sports, subsidized by the money maker sports, may very well kill the professional leagues for many sports.

D1 basketball athletes be able to be paid. Absolutely. That doesn't change my opinion that college sports benefit society and are often worth the extra cost.

If professional swimming or track "benefits society", why doesn't the government fund it directly? That's how it works in most other countries. Why are universities shouldering that burden?

If you think "benefiting society" is how the US government chooses to fund things, I've got a bridge to sell you :)

I'm not sure I understand why we need to be so concerned as a country about the longevity of competitive rowing.

Sports are important. Being competitive is important. Having hobbies is important. Taking time to do something other than "real life" responsibilities is important.

Much of this relies on the inspiration people get from watching these sports, and exposure the sport gets from the professional leagues.

All of this in ingrained in American culture. Whether it's capitalism, or high level sports, or pick up ball. It's all the same ball game.

Calling out a single one of these is incredibly disingenuous. Would society worsen if we never had competitive rowing again? No. Would it worsen if we got rid of the 24 sports that the NCAA oversees? Absolutely.

> Sports are important. Being competitive is important. Having hobbies is important.

Even if I agreed with these unexplained assertions, none of this justifies collegiate varsity sports in the face of all the obstacles it places on the primary objective of university education, or indeed, the oddity of placing SAT scores and minimum GPAs as a barrier to professional athleticism.

Your thesis seems to be professional sports are a priori important, and until we can replace varsity sports that feed professional leagues with a non-affiliated minor league, varsity must not be allowed to end. But there's really only one professional league I can think of that absolutely depends on the NCAA for athlete training, and we all seem to agree they can afford to solve this threat to their highly profitable existence; Congress has even granted them an antitrust exemption so it seems entirely fair society demands they develop a solution.

Why is skipping higher education to try to play professionally a massive risk? If it doesn’t work out, you can go to college after. Lots of people get jobs right after high school, then go back to school later. Not only that, but those people are usually going to jobs with a lot less upside than being a professional athlete.

How do countries that are "not the US" produce swimmers or track and field athletes?

often through direct state sponsorship

I think Olympic athletes get government funding in the US as well.

There's also the possibility of firms like IMG funding athletes' expenses and training, in return for a cut of future earnings.

> I think Olympic athletes get government funding in the US as well.

This is incorrect.

"Unlike other national Olympic organizations, [Team USA] receives no government funds. It pays for its operations and helps fund athletes and the national governing bodies of its sports through the sale of media and sponsorship rights and some modest fund-raising." - NYT

Just because someone doesn’t go to college at 18 doesn’t mean they’re “skipping” higher education. Spending a few years making 30k a year to play basketball would be awesome - my father had teammates in college who put off grad/med school to go play in a shitty European leagues or random minor leagues around North America, it never sounded like they regretted it.

If they followed Hockey’s example, where playing a year in the MJ gives you a year of tuition, it could work out great for young players.

If they can't make money to pay athletes, maybe they do not deserve to survive. We don't subsidise aspiring people in most other fields, why should sports be any different.

> We don't subsidise aspiring people in most other fields

Yes we do. It's called merit based scholarships.

This comment is getting downvotes and given my experience playing D1 college, getting a STEM degree, this scenario is in no way possible.

Stanford on its own is one of the top golf programs in the country. Its practice facility is absurdly good (my team was able to use it once when we were out there. The reason we were in the bay area? Because we took our spring breaks to go play fancy courses with rich alumni to get them to donate to the athletic department, which is another part of money you don't see but athletics gets.) You need to be really, really good to play at Stanford.

Second, college golf is a case where, because of the niceties like practice facilities, tournaments, where you don't pay for any of that, it's a feeder to the main tour. In fact, PGA Tour University[0] came out to help get guys who were good in college to the Tour quicker. The quality of guys in lower level tours is crazy, and this is a deserved bumper for the good guys. Guys play in college first because that's where you grow.

I'm very anti-NCAA. Each sport is different in terms of growing to the professional level though, and how engrained the NCAA is in most cases though makes it tough to have an overall solution.

[0] https://www.pgatour.com/university/what-you-need-to-know-faq...

You're getting bogged down in the details of my example. I know a good amount of people who played D1 sports. One went pro and is competing in the Olympics this year. The others used their degrees to get "normal" jobs when they weren't able to go pro (or had no intention to in the first place). All of them would not have had the opportunity to compete at a high level in their sports without forgoing their higher education.

I was friends with quite a few D1 athletes when I was at college. Their sports took up so much of their time that they were only able to put minimum effort into academics. In fact, the coaches and staff would help guid them into known easy classes, so they would be able to maintain their grades while working 40+ hours a week in their sport.

It would make so much more sense for them to just hold off on school, go try to make it as a professional athlete, and then go back to school if it didn’t work.

No other country ties sports and athletics like the US does. Good soccer players in other countries sign contract at 10 years old, and play for the academy while getting paid.

So maybe we don't need so many professional sports players.

Who needs those sports balls on the television, right?

Given that college sports mostly loose money for schools[1], why do we think its OK to ask students and (for public colleges) taxpayers to subsidize professional sports' feeder system?

I went to a large state school (SUNY Buffalo) where the administration wanted to go division 1 when I was there in the early 90s. Transitioning to division 1 came along with a large (to us) mandatory athletic fee. The student body voted against this multiple times, and then the administration simply stopped asking and went division 1 anyway (and imposed the fee).


So in-state tuition at UB would be around $4850 instead of $5200 without sports. Out-of-state would be around $13,750 vs $14,100.

Would life be significantly better without sports at UB, if students were given back a few hundred dollars? Would alumni donations go down without the occasional March Madness appearance? Or Bulls games?

When people make this argument, they make it seem like schools would all of a sudden be able to afford a massively better educational experience. That's just not the case.

Speaking from experience, the administration's disregard for the wishes of the student body pissed me off enough that I didn't donate anything to them for 15 years or so after graduation (until William Greiner, the president who presided over this had retired). Others in my peer group felt the same way, and I imagine did the same thing.

In terms of the impact of the fee: When I went to school, the tuition was $675/semester, and the fee was over $100 (I don't recall if that was per semester or per year). So that was at least a 7% increase in cost. Its sad the tuition has gone up so much.

It sounds like life would be significantly better without sports. 5200 vs 4850 is $350. That is the difference of a month of rent in Buffalo for your room, snow tires on your car that year or not, text books or not.

So around 24 hours of 15$/h minimum wage labour so that someone else can do something they could be doing on their own dime... That sounds very excessive burden to be placed on students. For something they gain very little from...

From "Law & Crime" [1]:

> Essentially, this is a classic violation of antitrust law. What the NCAA is arguing, however, is that it should be allowed an exemption to that law. The Court wasn’t willing to play ball on that one.

> Justice Gorsuch made short work of the argument that the NCAA is entitled to an exemption on the grounds that it is a “joint venture.” Reasoning that “student-athletes have nowhere else to sell their labor,” the justice wrote, “[e]ven if the NCAA is a joint venture, then, it is hardly of the sort that would warrant quick-look approval for all its myriad rules and restrictions.”

[1] https://lawandcrime.com/supreme-court/unanimous-supreme-cour...

Alternate headline: "Supreme Court unanimously sides with former college players in dispute with NCAA about compensation" (from ESPN).

Note that this is a narrow ruling about the NCAA limiting educational compensation and what scholarships can encompass-- but some justices gave indications that they disagree with the NCAA compensation restrictions at large.

Kavanaugh's concurrence is 100% an invitation for a broader restraint-of-trade suit, and honestly, it is long overdue. The NCAA is dead, they've got to settle, but there isn't going to be any real interest in half measures.

As someone who detests the Plantation League, this is long, long, long overdue.

The oral arguments stage made it pretty clear that none of the justices were buying the NCAA lawyers' arguments in general. It really makes me feel that the only reason this judgment didn't explicitly open the field for giving student athletes a salary was that the justices wanted to give schools some time to adapt instead of completely blowing up the current system all at once.

Kavanaugh hits the nail in the head in his concurring opinion.

> In my view, that argument is circular and unpersuasive. The NCAA couches its arguments for not paying student athletes in innocuous labels. But the labels cannot disguise the reality: The NCAA’s business model would be flatly il- legal in almost any other industry in America. All of the restaurants in a region cannot come together to cut cooks’ wages on the theory that “customers prefer” to eat food from low-paid cooks. Law firms cannot conspire to cabin lawyers’ salaries in the name of providing legal services out of a “love of the law.” Hospitals cannot agree to cap nurses’ income in order to create a “purer” form of helping the sick. News organizations cannot join forces to curtail pay to reporters to preserve a “tradition” of public-minded journalism. Movie studios cannot collude to slash benefits to camera crews to kindle a “spirit of amateurism” in Hollywood. Price-fixing labor is price-fixing labor. And price-fixing labor is ordinarily a textbook antitrust problem because it extinguishes the free market in which individuals can oth- erwise obtain fair compensation for their work.

What's even worse with NCAA compensation is that it is limited to a scholarship and the value of that scholarship is tied to the cost of a given college or university. If an athlete is given a scholarship to an in-state public university their compensation might be $25,000 per year versus another student attending a higher cost private school who could be getting paid $75,000 per year effectively.

You then have the value of the different degrees to the market (which is separate from the cost) so it is very possible that certain student athletes are obtaining a degree worth hundreds of thousands of future dollars in the market versus some who get 4 years of room and board to play sports, make the university money, and then maybe they do not even end up with a degree by the time their eligibility expires (see data on student athlete graduation rates).

And this is sidetracking the point that college-athletes being recruited with aspirations for professional sports view the college as a means to the pro-level job; college courses and the degree are not viewed as benefits but necessary side-effects. Is this true for all sports and all athletes? No, not for fencing or handball, but for football, basketball, and other potential high-earners.

So, I really disagree with this opinion, although I see this as a "reasonable people can disagree" sort of thing.

The problem with the analogy is that restaurants aren't primarily functioning as educational institutions with a restaurant business on the side. Hospital nurses aren't providing nursing care as a side activity. Camera crews are not secondary to the mission of a movie studio. With universities, the sports teams are at least ostensibly in theory, student extracurricular activities secondary to the primary mission of the university.

Let's say a university had a student dining center, and agreed to let people work in the center in exchange for free tuition. Would that be a violation of antitrust? I think not.

I admit universities are currently full of practices where nonprofit endeavors are hijacked for for-profit engorgement in a tail-wagging-the-dog sort of phenomenon. Sports are another example of many. But I don't think antitrust is really the appropriate concept to introduce -- or if it is, it has far greater implications than people realize.

What's maybe slipping under the radar is that by this argument, any nonprofit organization that tries to establish rules pertaining to scope of professional activities is operating as an inappropriate monopoly. Where does the argument end? Isn't the American Medical Association an illegal monopoly under this argument, as it conspires to control how people practice professionally? I doubt the Supreme Court would follow its reasoning to its logical conclusion, which raises the question about what's different with college sports. Why single it out?

I think sports is a big blind spot for most HN users, so I would like to offer an informal Q&A with me here in this thread. I am a former top-level division 1 football player that got a technical degree and now work in the IT/software space.

I like to do these every once in a while because there is so much incorrect information and bad assumptions about high level college athletes that I feel the need to combat this when the opportunity presents itself. I haven't read the posted SC opinion yet because I'm at work and currently eating a burrito. Don't be afraid to ask probing questions, the worst that will happen is I will choose not to answer.

An argument presented in this case is that increased pay to college athletes will incentivize them to spend more time on their athletics and less on their academics. How convincing do you find that argument, applied to athletes in a) Top Tier D1 Football programs, b) D1 programs but for less hyper-commercialized sports (say track, or volleyball), and c) D2 or D3 athletes with little-to-no aspirations of a future in professional athletics

I think that argument is dubious and the money would only affect a very small subset of athletes. It would even be a small subset of football/basketball players. You would want to set up professional feeder leagues and give kids the option of going pro or going to school. Honestly a proper developmental league would go a long way to fix/alleviate many of the problems with college athletics.

This is how baseball works, and all the baseball players I met actively wanted to be in college. Some of them even turned down $100k-$500k draft signing bonuses to play college ball.

You have to maintain a certain GPA regardless to continue competing. Unless they're cheating in school, the incentive to study will be the same either way. If they are cheating in school, then they were never serious about the education in the first place.

Honestly the focus (or lack thereof) on education starts at home.

source: also played college sports.

former D2 athlete here, never had aspirations to go pro. I don't think it's possible to spend "more time on their athletics" even at D2 level (can't speak for D3, though from my friends playing D1 it seems to be more time consuming).

my experience was waking up before the crack of dawn to pre-train, going to school in the morning, and then spending the rest of any free time I had after training (be it weights, cardio, practice etc). and then you watch film. all for the love (scholarships were nice) - so anyone that suggests there is more time to spend on athletics at these levels, and that paying athletes will somehow encourage them to do so vs academia, deserves a flan in the face.

How, and how much, do you personally feel student athletes should be compensated?

Should anyone actually care that West Nowhere State can't afford to compete against Alabama in football or KSU in basketball, since they never could have in the first place?

How much under the table money will these just be getting above board/visible to laymen (and isn't this a good thing when it comes to large state schools being accountable to taxpayers?)

I think the point of all this is that my opinion of how much college athletes should be compensated isn't relevant. My opinion on how much a software developer should be paid isn't relevant either, because the market sets the rate of compensation for software developers.

The problem right now with college athletics (at least football and basketball) is that the schools found a cash cow and the pro leagues found a free farm league that produces top talent. Its a symbiotic relationship and neither one wants to rock the boat. There's a reason the NFL players have their own union after all.

Regarding your second question, West Nowhere State is an ant in an elephants world. There are plenty of D3 programs (that give no aid or preferred admission) that have football programs that lose hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. They'll keep doing it even if Alabama is able to pay their players above the table.

As far as under the table money, I'm not sure. I never saw nor heard about those things, and with the way athletes like to boast it would surprise me if they were all able to keep their mouths shut. I think its less money going to less athletes than people would like to think.

My first point was less of a "200K/year" and more of a "whatever the market dictates the value of their skills would be" vs "a tiered set scale". Basically, do you think that Bama should be able to drop 2 million a year in player salaries while West Nowhere can only offer partial coverage scholarships.

And the under the table money is real, but less secret bags of cash left in their dorm and more "the AD bought a new car but realized he doesn't like the interior, do you want it?" IDK where you went to college, but several high profile programs lost championships and got sanctions for creative ways they "recruited" players. The ruling opens up more levers for schools to use to funnel goods and services towards players, even if they can't give them actually currency.

Yes, I think that players should be offered what they are worth. At this point the cat is out of the bag. College head coaches are getting paid millions per year (look it up, its all public), the assistants are getting paid 200k-800k. The athletic directors get paid $400k-$800k. Strength and conditioning coaches are getting $150k. Every year coaches leverage the public nature of their salaries to get better offers. Apparently the free market works great for everyone except the athletes. Strange how that works.

For some reason, the schools don't complain about how much money they are paying the coaches. They don't complain about how much money they are spending on facilities. They don't complain about how much money they spend on marketing. But for some reason, when the public starts talking about paying players, they start complaining and making excuses. If you want them to play for the love of the game, then get rid of scholarships. If you want them to be professionals, then pay them.

And yes, that will create inequity among players. That's fine. I wasn't worth the same to my team as our star quarterback (who now is a backup in the NFL). Its the way the world works, especially the world of sports.

edit: grammar

How did you manage the technical degree and full-time athlete duties? Did they occur at the same time?

Yes, I got my degree in 5 years and was on the team for all 5 of those years. It was tough. Lots of scheduling conflicts, because practice/meeting/lifting times are set in stone and you have to schedule your academics around them. I didn't find the workload too bad, but I basically didn't have time to do anything else other than football and school. In-season you scale back classes to the minimum number of credit-hours because football takes about 50 hours per week (minimum, 60 hours when you are travelling that week). I took 5 years though, so was able to spread the credit-hours out over an extra year so I wasn't taking too many classes each term.

There was a starter on the football team in my graduating class at umich cs. The only explanation of how he found the time I can think of is he had tutors do most of the work for him.

I think its unfair to assume that about him. There were a decent number of athletes in engineering degrees when I was in school and they absolutely worked their asses off, myself included.

Although there were special athletic academic tutors, there weren't any available that could tutor for engineering subjects so I doubt any athletes were getting assignments done for them. Regular tutors wouldn't have played along with that game. Also, the professors (at least most of mine) were pretty skeptical of athletics, so I was on a short leash for what I could get away with (missing classes, moving exam dates, asking for extra time on projects, etc). If they sniffed that I was cheating, they would have brought the hammer down without thinking twice. That's just my experience at my school though.

Just a second hand anecdote, but a professor of mine at my small liberal arts college with a D3 football team - mentioned over a few glasses of wine that he had moved on from teaching at Virginia Tech because he was pressured by the administration to give passing grades to Michael Vick, who never attended a single class or completed any coursework of his.

Yeah, I would only be mildly surprised if this happened a time or two while I was in school. There are some guys that just don't want to go to school, but college football is their only pathway to make it to the NFL. The academic counselors have their hands full just trying to keep all their athletes eligible, let alone enabling them to thrive in an academic environment.

"I deleted n pages of someone's rules today"

Does this mean players can just do the straightforward thing and negotiate lucrative contracts with schools and we can forego all the backdoor, indirect compensation and self-inflicted corruption that goes on now? If so then these institutions can just be what they are in a straightforward way; football teams that also happen to fund a legacy educational branch.

The ruling today was quite narrow, so players cannot do the straightforward thing at the moment.

There were very strong hints that the NCAA needs to change its rules around compensation completely, so it seems likely that they eventually will be able to do that. But it isn't the case now.

For more about the egregious ways in which the NCAA treats student-athletes, this is a great book:


I think the NCAA should create an investment pool backed by individual students' contributions to revenue. So, you're a star at Alabama. Based on your play time, jersey sales, you get a share of Alabama's share of total revenue into the pool. It grows and after 5 years you are eligible to withdraw that share. It could be used as a buffer in case of career ending injuries or liquidated for profit with incentives to perhaps see out your college career.

tl;dr in 2 quotes from the decision. Wild shit that the NCAA got this far

> The NCAA does not contest that its re-straints affect interstate trade and commerce and are thus subject to the Sherman Act.

> With this much agreed it is unclear exactly what the NCAA seeks. To the extent it means to propose a sort of judicially ordained immunity from the terms of the Sherman Act for its restraints of trade—that we should overlook its restrictions because they happen to fall at the intersection of higher education, sports, and money—we cannot agree.

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