IU Bloomington panel to discuss whether college athletes should be paid

Guest post courtesy of IU Newsroom intern Annie Brackemyre

March Madness is about to sweep the nation, reinvigorating the debate about whether to pay college athletes. The debate has grown as NCAA sports have turned into big business for both universities and broadcasters.

Opponents and supporters of the idea that college athletes should be paid have become more adversarial as universities spend millions of dollars on coaching salaries and new facilities. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the NCAA basketball tournament alone will bring in $10.8 billion over 14 years through broadcasting rights.

Jayma Meyer

Jayma Meyer

On Tuesday, an Indiana University panel will tackle the debate around paying college athletes. The panel will take place at 7 p.m. March 10 in the Moot Court Room, Room 123, in the IU Maurer School of Law in Bloomington.

The event, sponsored by the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs, the law and public policy undergraduate major and the IU debate team, is free and open to the public.

The IU debate team will present both sides of the issue, and the panelists will comment and take questions from the audience.

Panelists will include:

  • Naima Stevenson Starks, deputy general counsel for the NCAA.
  • Gary Roberts, Dean Emeritus of IU Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis and arbitrator for the 2014 Winter Olympics.
  • Kevin Brown, the Richard S. Melvin Professor of Law in the IU Maurer School.
  • Jeff Kostoff, two-time Olympic swimmer and assistant coach for IU swimming.

Jayma Meyer, a visiting scholar of sports law at SPEA, will moderate the panel. In addition, IU varsity athletes will be present to offer their viewpoints.

Despite large paydays, only about 20 university athletic departments operate in the black. This is largely because revenues earned by one or a few teams are redistributed to finance the teams that do not earn revenue. Because of this, the cost to pay athletes may fall on the public.

“Athletic departments receive at least indirectly public funds,” Meyer said. “Many athletic departments also receive student fees. Without cuts in programs or spending, conceivably, the burden could fall on the public and non-athletes to finance any payments to athletes.”

In 2013, IU’s athletic department was subsidized by over $2.5 million from other university budgets to keep the department afloat.

The conversation has been further complicated by the landmark case O’Bannon v. NCAA, in which a federal judge ruled in August that college athletes can earn a portion of the licensing revenue from the use of their name, image or likeness. The revenue is put in a trust that cannot be accessed until the student graduates from college, and schools are allowed to cap the amount of earnable revenue for student athletes, although the minimum cap is set at $5,000 per year.

Those who support the idea of paying athletes argue that the NCAA’s massive revenue streams never trickle down to the athletes who have led the success of the organization. Supporters also argue that despite playing for free, college athletes risk serious injury.

Opponents, like NCAA President Mike Emmert, say that paying athletes would discourage academic success. A popular opposition argument centers on the exposure college athletes have to professional teams, opening the door to high-paying contracts down the road — compensation for their years playing in college.


Tags: ,