past event

Future of College Sports: Reimagining Athlete Pay


College athletics is a multibillion-dollar industry, occupying a rare space globally in which commercialized sports intersect with higher education. In the wake of the ongoing FBI investigation involving payoffs to men’s basketball players by outside parties, the NCAA created a commission led by Condoleezza Rice to suggest reforms of Division I men’s basketball. On April 25, the Commission on College Basketball called for changes to eligibility rules, greater athlete access to agents, and stronger penalties for coaches who violate NCAA rules.

Given the underground economy that the FBI probe exposed, one of the key questions that observers say needs to be addressed is whether athletes should be allowed to receive compensation beyond the value of their athletic scholarships. Could a system be set up in which athletes are permitted to receive sponsorship money in exchange for the use of their name, image and likeness?

NCAA President Mark Emmert recently said this approach, known as the Olympic model, is deserving of serious consideration inside the context of college sports. Legal challenges to the NCAA’s economic model will likely force this question anyway. Rice said most conference commissioners believe the NCAA rules on names, images and likenesses should be addressed as soon as the legal framework is established.

So, at our Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program event, we asked: What if athletes could be paid in this manner? What would be the potential implications, on athlete compensation, educational achievement, competitive impact, NCAA governance, women’s sports, high school/youth sports, and fan interest?

On May 1, we explored these questions with a diverse set of thought leaders. Participants included:

  • John Thompson III, former Georgetown and Princeton men’s basketball coach, NCAA Commission on College Basketball member
  • Dan Radakovich, Clemson athletic director, former College Football Playoff selection committee member
  • Bernadette McGlade, Atlantic 10 Conference commissioner, former Georgia Tech women’s basketball coach
  • Nigel Hayes, NBA/former Wisconsin player, plaintiff in lawsuit vs. NCAA over athlete compensation
  • Gabe Feldman, Tulane Sports Law Program director, Tulane associate provost for NCAA compliance 
  • Andy Schwarz, OSKR Sports Economist/Partner, chief strategist for the Historical Basketball League

The conversation was moderated by Jon Solomon, editorial director of the Sports & Society Program, whose reporting on college sports has won national honors.

Please take our post-event survey sharing your perspective on the implications if college athletes were allowed to receive sponsorship money in exchange for the use of their name, image and likeness. The results will be used in future Aspen Institute content to offer guidance for athletes, policymakers and leaders in the college sports industry.

Future of Sports is a new quarterly conversation series by the Sports & Society Program. Our first event in January was called Future of Football: Reimagining the Game’s Pipeline. We will explore four topics in 2018 with thought leaders, encouraging them to consider the major trends and potential policy shifts on the table, and ask: What if? In doing so, we aim to help stakeholders think through key questions shaping the future of our games, the sports industry and its impact on society.

The Sports & Society Program thanks Marilyn and Michael Glosserman for their generous support of the Future of Sports conversation series. 

Media Coverage:

Ex-Wisconsin player Nigel Hayes says team discussed game boycott to protest NCAA compensation (Steve Berkowitz, USA Today Sports)

Should athletes be paid for name and image? (Jeremy Bauer-Wolf, Inside Higher Ed)

Related Content:
The history Behind the Debate Over Paying NCAA Athletes (Jon Solomon, The Aspen institute)

Commission on College Basketball report

NCAA State of the Game: Condoleezza on Commission’s Report

NCAA keeps playing victim, pointing fingers instead of facing biggest issue in college sports (Dan Wetzel, Yahoo! Sports)

Condoleezza Rice: “College basketball is in trouble … and time is ticking” (Pat Forde, Yahoo! Sports)

College basketball commission calls for rules changes, but sticks with amateurism (Liz Clarke and Will Hobson, The Washington Post)

Condoleezza Rice thinks college hoops is worth saving. Does NCAA care enough to do it? (Sally Jenkins, The Washington Post)

Arike Ogunbowale on “Dancing with the Stars” forces NCAA into tricky two-step (Jacob bogage, the washington post)

Conversation with NCAA President Mark Emmert (2016)

Event information
Tue May 1, 2018
11:45am - 2:30pm EDT
The Aspen Institute
2300 N St. NW, 8th Floor
Washington, DC