In January, two Democratic senators introduced a federal bill, the College Athletes’ Bill of Rights.
On the long list of reforms, one item stood out as a possible change in college sports: Schools must share 50% of their profits with athletes in sports that generate revenue, after taking into account scholarship expenses.
How can this work, asked Boston College athletic director Patrick Kraft.
In an Associated Press poll of 357 Division I athletic directors, 69 percent of those surveyed said they were strongly opposed to athletes getting a share of athletics revenue. In contrast, 19.6% were more opposed to sharing athletics department revenue with athletes.
Nearly 77% of athletics directors said significantly fewer schools would participate in athletics if schools had to share revenue with athletes, and 13% said slightly fewer schools would participate in athletics.
The vast majority of athletics directors surveyed, who granted anonymity in exchange for their candor, said sharing revenue with athletes would make it harder to enforce Title IX and gender equity. More than 75% said it would be much harder, and nearly 19% said it would be only slightly harder.
What 95% of institutions receive in sports revenue goes to other sports, said one interviewee. Paying that 5% of students will have a devastating effect on the other teams that depend on that revenue to survive….
Most respondents were from schools outside the Power 5 Conference – only 11 of the 99 general managers who participated in the survey were from the Power 5 Conference – the richest and most influential conference in college athletics, which includes the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and Southeastern Conference.
Nearly 69% of respondents are from 22 conferences that do not play FBS football.
Dozens of schools have athletics departments that generate more than $100 million a year in revenue, but the NCAA says only about 25 schools actually made a profit in 2019.
Football is the best-selling sport after men’s basketball. For schools in the richest conferences, such as the Big Ten and the Southeastern Conference, media rights deals with television networks generate hundreds of millions of dollars a year – with football at the center of those deals.
I fund 31 sports here, said Kraft, whose school competes in the Atlantic Coast Conference. I try to make it the best experience possible, not only for our football players, but also for the swimmers, sailors and skiers. We’re all in this together. Football ticket revenue therefore contributes to this funding.
The bill of rights for college athletes, introduced by Senators. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) are among six individuals associated with college athletics in the bill on Capitol Hill. He is the only one advocating revenue sharing, which seems like a radical idea that a compromise is unlikely to survive.
But allowing schools to pay athletes a scholarship of several thousand dollars a semester to cover the full cost of tuition was not an NCAA requirement, and now it is usually a part of the athletics scholarship. Allowing college athletes to make money off their name, image and likeness once seemed like a radical idea, but it will soon become a reality.
Many people outside of the university sports world don’t see anything radical about athletes being at the center of a multi-billion dollar company and sharing in the revenue that company generates.
Over the past 15 years, college sports revenue has grown exponentially, but the players have never benefited from that money. Pretending that the sky will fall if athletes get a fair share of the money their work generates is patently disingenuous and ignores the basic civil rights inherent in this industry, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) in a statement to the AP.
For some schools with small budgets, the prospect of having to share revenue doesn’t seem so alarming.
I think we’ve always adapted to the new rules and made changes, said Brad Teague, Mid-Arkansas’ athletic director. We’ll be fine. But what is the income at the end of the day? At our level, we have no income. There’s nothing to share.
The coach’s salary represents the largest portion of the cost at all levels. The skyrocketing salaries at the top of college sports – football assistants at Power 5 schools typically earn $1 million a year – have pushed up the market for coaches at all levels and even in other sports.
Teague is among the 29 percent of athletics directors who say they strongly support legislation that would allow schools to limit the salaries of coaches and staff members. Moreover, 40% of those surveyed were in favour of a legal ceiling on salaries.
It takes a Congressional decision to get around the antitrust laws. The NCAA is already seeking help from federal lawmakers to establish national compensation standards for college athletes. Most bills introduced so far have been limited by the NIL, but the College Athletes’ Bill of Rights has reminded us that it can be difficult to set limits once Congress is involved.
The survey asked the AD which organizations should be responsible for regulating university sports.
Nearly 90 percent think the NCAA should be given more responsibility and 74 percent think conferences should be given more responsibility. As for Congress, 36% felt it should have little responsibility for regulating college sports, while 55% felt it should have no responsibility.
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