Opinion | Here’s How to Compensate College Athletes – By Roger Pielke Jr. – The New York Times


Dr. Pielke is a professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder. who has written about sports governance issues.

Credit…Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

“A month ago, Gov. Gavin Newsom of California signed legislation that will allow college athletes in the state to profit from their sports celebrity by promoting products and companies. Other states quickly moved in the same direction, and on Tuesday the N.C.A.A., the governing body of college sports, bowed to the inevitable after long opposing the move.

The group’s governing board voted unanimously to allow student-athletes “the opportunity to benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness.” The board directed the organization’s three divisions to develop new rules to begin no later than January 2021.

While the details of this “modernization” remain vague and it is unclear how student-athletes will be allowed to “benefit,” the new rules will be “consistent with the collegiate model,” according to the organization. By that, the N.C.A.A. means “consistent with the values of college sports within higher education.”

Professors like me already follow a “collegiate model” for receiving revenue from intellectual property created by university research we do. This model provides an obvious and straightforward solution to the challenges of compensating athletes based on their name, image and likeness. Just treat athletes like others on campus.

In 1978, Joe Allen, a member of the staff of Senator Birch Bayh, a Democrat of Indiana, discovered that of the 28,000 patents owned by the federal government through government-funded research, only about 5 percent were being commercialized. This was a dismal record for a nation investing hundreds of billions of dollars in science and technology. Senator Bayh teamed up with Senator Bob Dole, a Kansas Republican, to propose legislation to fundamentally change how universities commercialized their discoveries.

Signed into law by President Jimmy Carter in 1980, the Bayh-Dole Act allows universities to retain ownership of patents that result from federally funded research and to share any revenues that result with professors and other researchers whose work led to the discoveries. For instance, at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where I work, 50 percent of such revenue is split equally between the researcher’s personal and research accounts, and the remaining 50 percent is divided equally between the university system and the campus.”

David Lindsay: It is hard to be smart. I really liked the idea above, until I read the comments. Here are the top three which I liked.

Washington, D.C.
Times Pick

This is really about two sports and only two sports for men – football and basketball. Those are the money makers. Why not break up the unholy alliance between the NCAA and the NFL and NBA? Abolish any requirement for college experience to play in those leagues. Let those leagues set up a “farm system” like MLB. Let those athletes who still choose to go to college be true student-athletes. Oh, I know why the NCAA has no interest in this – the NCAA desperately wants to keep profits high for it’s cash cows.

12 Replies156 Recommend

David commented 4 hours ago

Times Pick

Athletics don’t belong in institutions of higher learning anyways. We are the only nation in the world that ties the two together, it’s time to separate that. The NFL and NBA use our colleges as taxpayer funded minor leagues to the detriment of the academic side of things.

4 Replies125 Recommended

MA commented 4 hours ago

Brooklyn, NY
Times Pick

All college sports should be division III sports. That is, a fun and character-building pastime for people pursuing real careers. People who want to be professional athletes should go into professional sports right out of high school. The NFL and NBA could easily set up minor leagues (like MLB and NHL). Get sports out of college. Sports are overly prioritized; they draw resources and attention away from college’s true mission, academics. My college sports friends fear that if college athletes are paid, this will “ruin” college sports by making them too expensive for colleges to run. I hope so; this is exactly how it should be.

4 Replies97 Recommended