Public support for paying college athletes split, survey says

Dive Brief:

  • While a majority of the public agrees college athletes should be compensated for the use of their name, image and likeness, or NIL, there’s far less support for them being paid directly with colleges’ funds. 

  • That’s according to a new nationally representative poll of 1,000 individuals conducted by the Bucknell Institute for Public Policy. It found mixed support for student-athletes being paid. 

  • The survey results come shortly after a U.S. Supreme Court decision greenlighting colleges to provide players an expanded range of education-related benefits, which was largely viewed as continued erosion of the NCAA’s amateurism model. 

Dive Insight:

The center found that 60% of survey respondents supported student-athletes being paid for use of their NIL. It was administered in mid-May, prior to the Supreme Court decision.

The issue of players being paid for their personas has taken off. California was first to pass a law, in 2019, authorizing student-athletes to profit from their NIL. Since then, many other legislatures have proposed similar measures. And several are due to take effect July 1.

That timing puts the NCAA, which has long prohibited many forms of student-athlete compensation, in a bind. The association was due to approve its own NIL policies earlier this year, but postponed that vote amid skepticism of the proposal by the U.S. Department of Justice, which felt it could run afoul of antitrust laws.

The latest news reports suggest the NCAA is attempting to have a bridge policy in place before some state’s NIL laws take effect in July.

Student-athletes being paid directly with a college’s money garnered much less support in the newly released survey — only a quarter of respondents backed the idea. 

Many more respondents, nearly half, favored giving college athletes a share of the money their sport made for an institution, however. 

“The nation, as a whole, seems to be opposed to paying college athletes directly from university funds, sending the message that while it’s OK for college student-athletes to profit from their own fame or the money generated from their sport, colleges and universities should not be using their own resources to pay student-athletes,” Chris Ellis, co-director of the institute, said in a statement.

Federal lawmakers have also tackled NIL proposals and held a Senate committee hearing recently on the matter. The NCAA has come out in favor of a federal standard. 

In a related area that would affect the amateurism model, Senate Democrats have also drafted legislation that would allow college athletes to unionize. About 36% of survey respondents supported this idea.

Leave a Comment