Paying athletes a cause of concern for smaller sports

TAYLOR COUNTY—As expected, college coaches in non-revenue sports are voicing their concerns about the impact that paying athletes will have on their respective programs.

More than a dozen national associations in various sports including golf, gymnastics, hockey, soccer, swimming, tennis, and others, have signed a memo outlining significant concerns about the effects of allowing athletes to profit for use of their names, images, and likenesses (NIL).

Included in their communication are concerns regarding reduced resources for lower-profile programs, the risk of boosters buying talent for a competitive advantage, whether schools can effectively monitor for compliance, and increased influence by agents.

Prepared by North Carolina Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham and Associate Athletic Director Paul Pogge, the memo was sent last week to a law committee outlining a regulated athlete-compensation law for states to adopt. The memo focuses on non-revenue sports, many of which are included in the Olympics.

The committee will hold a virtual meeting on Tuesday. The meeting is held after the NCAA moved forward with a proposition for athletes to profit through “NIL” deals with third parties, though stipulations (labeled “guardrails” by the NCAA), are still being developed.

The NCAA and Power 5 Conference commissioners also want Congress to consider creating a federal NIL law ahead of state versions currently being proposed so schools can all operate under the same guidelines.

Many committees that support the memo are a part of the alliance that opposed the motion to temporarily lower the NCAA’s 16-sport minimum for D-1 athletics as a result of COVID-19, which subsequently created financial difficulties for schools and led some universities and colleges to cut certain sports.

A key issue in the case for non-revenue sports is lost participation opportunities. The memo does state, however, that changes could come gradually as corporate sponsors continue to evaluate extensive financial support to schools as they pursue lucrative deals with elite athletes in high-profile sports like football and men’s basketball.

The committee will submit a final report to the commission by June 15th. If the commission decides to move ahead, it will create a “drafting committee” for construction of the verbiage for athletecompensation legislation.

That committee would more than likely meet this fall in a process which could last one to two years.


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