The NCAA Agreed to Pay Players. It Won’t Call Them Employees.

The argument is the organization’s attempt to maintain the last vestiges of its amateur model and to prevent college athletes from collectively bargaining.

The immediate takeaway from the landmark $2.8 billion settlement that the N.C.A.A. and the major athletic conferences accepted on Thursday was that it cut straight at the heart of the organization’s cherished model of amateurism: Schools can now pay their athletes directly.

But another bedrock principle remains intact, and maintaining it is likely to be a priority for the N.C.A.A.: that players who are paid by the universities are not employed by them, and therefore do not have the right to collectively bargain.

Congress must “establish that our athletes are not employees, but students seeking college degrees,” John I. Jenkins, the president of the University of Notre Dame, said in a statement when the agreement was announced.

It is the N.C.A.A.’s attempt to salvage the last vestiges of its amateur model, which for decades barred college athletes from being paid by schools or anyone else without risking their eligibility. That stance came under greater legal and political scrutiny in recent years, leading to the settlement, which still requires approval by a judge.

On its face, the argument may seem peculiar. Over the past decade, public pressure and a series of court rulings — not to mention the reality that college athletics generated billions of dollars in annual revenue and that athletes received none of it — have forced the N.C.A.A. to unravel restrictions on player compensation. A California law that made it illegal to block college athletes from name, image and licensing, or N.I.L., deals paved the way for athletes to seek compensation, some of them receiving seven figures annually.

At the same time, college sports have become an increasingly national enterprise. Regional rivalries and traditions have been tossed aside as schools have switched conference allegiances in pursuit of TV money. Individual conferences can now stretch from Palo Alto, Calif., to Chestnut Hill, Mass., meaning many athletes in a variety of sports are spending more time traveling to games and less time on campus.

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Source: Basketball -


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