A Regulatory Solution to Better Promote the Educational Values and Economic Sustainability of Intercollegiate Athletics01 Jan 2014
Currently there are several pending antitrust suits challenging NCAA rules restricting the economic benefits intercollegiate athletes may receive for their sports participation. Although remedying the inherent problems of commercialized college sports (primarily Division I football and men’s basketball) is a laudable objective, a free market solution mandated by antitrust law may have unintended adverse consequences. Judicial invalidation of these rules may inhibit universities from providing many athletes with a college education they would not otherwise receive, by eliminating or reducing the value of scholarships for many players whose economic value is less than the cost of an education. A wholly "free market" for player talent will also severely limit universities’ ability to provide academic and athletic opportunities to thousands of women and men participating in nonrevenue sports, which are funded by surplus revenues from football and men’s basketball. Rather than professionalizing college sports through antitrust litigation or unionization, we propose an open and transparent system of federal regulation combined with antitrust immunity for reforms voluntarily adopted by the NCAA. To better promote the educational values and economic sustainability of intercollegiate athletics, our proposed Congressional intercollegiate athletics reform legislation would have three mandatory requirements: 1) at least a 4-year athletic scholarship with limited university termination rights; 2) medical care or health insurance for all sports-related injuries and scholarship extensions for injuries; and 3) elimination of the NCAA requirement that Division I universities operate at least 14 intercollegiate sports. It would create an independent commission to propose non-binding intercollegiate athletics regulations. NCAA and athletic conference conduct that complies with these regulations would receive antitrust immunity.