past event

Future of College Sports: Athletes as University Employees

The future of college sports finds itself stuck, with great uncertainty over what’s next after an eventful 2021.

NCAA athletes can now make endorsement money. The National Labor Relations Board general counsel suggested athletes at private universities should be classified as employees, inviting two legal challenges. Lawsuits snaking through the courts could also impact the future. And gone, to some degree, is the NCAA’s legal backstop of the Supreme Court, which unanimously ruled that the NCAA violated antitrust law by restricting education-related benefits to athletes.

Fundamentally, the athlete-university relationship is changing. It’s conceivable that college athletes could eventually be declared employees. If that happened, what would be the implications for the multibillion-dollar college sports industry? For universities, whose resources and motivations for playing sports vary dramatically school by school? For athletes, who could negotiate salaries and health and safety benefits, but also get fired? For Title IX compliance, which would remain part of the equation to provide equal opportunities for women?

To answer these questions, we were joined by:

  • Bob Bowlsby, Big 12 Conference Commissioner
  • Michael McCann, University of New Hampshire law professor, Sportico senior sports legal reporter
  • Maddie Salamone, Attorney, ex-Duke lacrosse player, former chair of Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee
  • Michael Hsu, former University of Minnesota Regent, advocate for college athletes

Read Axios Sports’s recap of the event.

Future of Sports is a conversation series, hosted by the Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program, that helps stakeholders think through key questions shaping the future of our games, the sports industry and its impact on society. Past events examined the future of football, a series on college athlete pay including the government’s role and the future of name, image and likeness rightssports bettingathlete activismcoaching, the U.S. Olympic movement, women’s pro sports, children’s rights in sports, and the future of sports in the climate crisis. Contact Sports & Society Program Editorial Director Jon Solomon at with questions or inquiries.

Thank you to Axios Sports for its support as media partner of the Future of Sports series.

Event information
Fri Feb 25, 2022
12:00pm - 1:00pm EDT
Watch the replay here