My theory about how coaches feel about the issues roiling the NCAA and schools right now – primarily amateurism and unionization – is that the coaches don’t oppose the players’ interests out of a lack of sympathy (Dabo Swinney’s “they’re lucky to be here” attitude notwithstanding), so much as they don’t relish the potential threat to their control resolution of these issues might pose.
So that, plus what’s probably a lack of general understanding or attention to the issues, is probably why you don’t hear coaches dismiss the need for an antitrust exemption for college sports. Judging from a comment from Wisconsin chancellor Rebecca Blank, maybe they should brush up on the issue.
Blank, chancellor since 2013, has given the issue of coaches’ salaries a good deal of thought — and she offers a radical fix.
“Coaches are being paid, especially in a couple of big sports, increasingly like professional leagues,” she says. “It immediately raises the question of, ‘Why aren’t your athletes being paid similarly?’ If I could redo this, I would try to get some sort of antitrust exemption here and say, ‘We run a college sports program — and college sports programs are different. And we do have the right to cap salaries, given the salary levels that exist elsewhere around the university.’
“And the expectation is that these students are students, as well as athletes, meaning it is not a for-profit program. People who want to make those kinds of salaries need to be in professional sports. I’m a losing voice on that right now. … I don’t think anyone believes it’s going to happen.”
Although she expresses an attitude that’s been expressed before by college administrators, Cheek isn’t exactly a tyro when it comes to economic issues. She was acting secretary of commerce in the Obama administration and holds a doctorate in economics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Coaches aren’t the only people who like control, you know.