Report: UW Chancellor says school could remove athletics program if athletes are paid
A college sports trial in Oakland, California could be a game-changer for the athletics department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
According to a recent report published on Law360.com, on Sept. 4, a trial was set in motion that cross-examined UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank and American Athletic Conference commissioner Michael Aresco. The two testified what impact would come from removing NCAA payment restrictions for student athletes.
Law360.com reported from Blank, “It’s not clear that we would continue to run an athletic program. We’re not interested in professional sports. We’re interested in student athletes.”
When asked for comment, the university sent this statement:
The University of Wisconsin has no plans to stop offering athletics. Chancellor Blank strongly supports Wisconsin’s athletic program and believes the Badgers are a major asset to our campus and the Big Ten.
The chancellor’s comments yesterday were offered in the context of describing the economics of running a major broad-based amateur athletics program.
If a change to the structure of college athletics were to occur, UW would expect to be part of any conversation within the Big Ten and nationally about what that would mean for university athletic programs.
Plaintiffs in federal litigation have sought to invalidate NCAA rules governing the compensation that may be paid to collegiate student-athletes, arguing that student athletes are treated as professional athletes and should enjoy compensation for the use of their images, names and likenesses.
Chancellor Blank provided testimony to the court that there is a market separate from professional sports for amateur sports, that college athletes are students first, that paying student athletes would undermine the university community and treat certain student athletes differently than others.
Chancellor Blank believes that the current set of NCAA rules governing payments to student athletes for the use of their names, images and likenesses are appropriate to maintain a market for amateur athletics in the university setting.
UW Madison students are divided on whether their sports athletes should be paid.
“They put in more than 40 hours a week, they work hard, they liven the student experience, they bring a lot to the university. I just feel like they can be compensated for that,” said student James Montgomery.
“I do not think student athletes should be paid at universities,” said student Peighton Roth. “With their scholarships in addition, they are getting education, they are getting housing, they’re getting a bunch of things that non student athletes don’t get.”
Currently, the NCAA caps the value of athletic scholarships but offers extra benefits for student athletes.
The trial will examine how student athletes bring the college revenue through advertisements and publicity.
At the trail, Aresco argued that paying student athletes could intrude on the sports themselves.
Blank said if schools were to pay their student athletes, she would consider pulling out of the NCAA altogether and dropping intercollegiate sports.
Student athletes claim the NCAA compensation restrictions limit the schools too heavily on recruiting top athletes.
The first week of the 10-day bench trial focused on examining sports economics and student athletes on the impact of the NCAA compensation restrictions.
Blank testified Monday explaining how schools receive money from NCAA. She confirmed the Big Ten is in a six-year media rights contract worth $2.64 billion. Blank said UW receives close to $43-$45 million annually from the NCAA.
Aresco argues that NCAA rules have promoted healthy competition between universities to make sure the wealthier universities don’t get all of the best athletes. He added if athletic scholarships started including payment for student athletes, college sports would essentially become minor league sports, which Aresco says would prompt college sports fans to tune out.
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