NCAA athletes are big business for US colleges and universities. So should student athletes be compensated? Speaking at the Institute’s “Future of College Sports: Reimagining Athlete Pay” event in May, former University of Wisconsin basketball player Nigel Hayes said they should. Hayes said he and his college teammates once considered boycotting a high-profile game during the 2016–2017 season to protest the NCAA’s limits on what athletes can accept while playing college sports. (The idea was abandoned because not everyone on the Wisconsin team favored the idea.) “With all the money that’s being made that the players are not receiving, there’s going to be a point where the players don’t play,” said Hayes, now an NBA forward who last played for the Sacramento Kings. “It’s going to take the right player or the right team in the right big-game setting.”
Participants in the Future of College Sports discussion also included Clemson Athletic Director Dan Radakovich, former Georgetown and Princeton men’s basketball coach John Thompson III, and Atlantic 10 Conference Commissioner Bernadette McGlade, all of whom debated the implications of NCAA athletes receiving compensation for their names and images through outside sponsorships. Thompson and Radakovich pointed out possible problems with players signing deals that conflict with their university’s own business contracts. For instance, an athlete who promotes Under Armour may be at odds with his or her college’s deal with Nike. Watch the discussion at as.pn/collegesportsfuture and read Jon Solomon, the Sports & Society Program’s editorial director, on the history behind the debate at aspeninstitute.org/pay-ncaa-athletes.