NCAA President Charlie Baker has presented a proposal that could revolutionize the landscape of college sports. In a letter addressed to Division I schools, Baker outlined the key elements of the plan, focusing on a significant shift in governance that would allow well-funded athletic departments to compensate athletes directly.
This proposal introduces the concept of creating an “enhanced educational trust fund” for athletes, essentially enabling big-money schools, particularly in the Football Bowl Subdivision, to pay their athletes.
The proposal signifies a departure from the traditional stance of the NCAA, which has maintained the amateur status of college athletes despite the immense growth of the college sports industry into a multi-billion dollar enterprise.
One of the key aspects of Baker’s proposal is the creation of a new subdivision for “Rich Schools,” allowing them to establish their own rules on issues like roster size, transfers, and name, image, and likeness (NIL). This subdivision would potentially allow schools with higher revenues, like Alabama and Michigan, to create regulations without needing input or approval from schools outside of the category.
Baker’s letter suggests that schools in the Rich Schools subdivision should invest a minimum of $30,000 per year into an enhanced educational trust fund for eligible student-athletes, ensuring compliance with Title IX. The reference to Title IX in the proposal raises the possibility of increased NIL funds for women athletes, potentially promoting greater gender equity in the distribution of compensation.
While it’s a leap in the right direction, many details still need to be worked out. The NCAA’s move to make such a proposal may be seen as an effort to preempt external intervention from entities like Congress and the courts, which have shown an increased interest in issues like name, image, and likeness (NIL) and athlete compensation.
Others, like the publication More Perfect Union, warn that while the proposal creates a “new system that’s better than the status quo,” it will only reward a small number of top players. “The real issue is college athletes should all be able to organize, collectively bargain, and get paid what they deserve,” they wrote.
As for the next steps, the proposal is currently open for feedback, and once finalized, it will undergo formal voting by Division I governance panels.
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