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 ofcollege 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 collegesports 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.