Profs consider backing NCAA antitrust exemption

A group of professors seeking reform in college sports wants to

explore the possibility of an antitrust exemption, which could

allow the NCAA to better regulate spending on coaches’ salaries and

other costs.

The Coalition On Intercollegiate Athletics met in January, and

this week released five policy recommendations made by its steering

committee.

All the proposals dealt with finding ways to rein in what many

on the committee view as the runaway costs of college sports and

the outsized influence sports have on campuses.

The NCAA antitrust exemption would generate the biggest change

of the COIA recommendations but would also be the most

controversial because it would require Congressional approval.

Court cases in 1984 and 1995 essentially stripped the NCAA of

any rights to control costs, which has led to growing revenues

through the college football bowl system but also spawned steadily

increasing salaries for coaches and expenses for facilities.

”Without modification of antitrust constraints, there is no

mechanism to restrain the market forces driving rapid commercial

expansion,” the steering committee wrote.

Its four other recommendations were:

-To support the so-called ”collegiate model” of sports and try

to lessen the commercialism that has led to calls that athletes

should be paid to play.

-To advocate for policies that will keep big football

conferences inside the NCAA, which would allow for some oversight

that would be missing if they splintered away.

-To increase efforts to respond to the ”reputational risks”

that the market-driven model of sports pose to U.S. higher

education. This issue came to light, unflinchingly, in the child

sex abuse scandal at Penn State, which had its reputation sullied

because of problems originating in the football program.

-To continue cooperating with the NCAA in trying to bring about

changes, while remaining vigilant about NCAA efforts that place

college sports over the academic missions of the schools

themselves.

If Congress ever did grant an antitrust exemption, the NCAA

would conceivably have power to regulate what programs spend on

salaries and facilities. It’s an idea that would help the so-called

`have-nots’ in college sports while reining in what the `haves’

could spend, which is one reason the idea hasn’t gathered much

support over the years.

It would also invite Congress to design a new system through

legislation, which many university leaders oppose.

But the COIA steering committee made the recommendation because

it doesn’t see schools or the NCAA as doing enough to keep

themselves in check financially.

”While the NCAA is demonstrating significant ability to

regulate in the interests of higher education in the area of

academic reform, it is prevented by antitrust laws from doing so in

the area of economic regulation, and it has been amply demonstrated

that schools are not able to do so themselves,” the committee

wrote.