Over the weekend, the New York Times published an editorial addressing the role of Title IX in the debate about amateurism in college sports. The editorial board argues that athletic directors exaggerate when they claim that Title IX makes it impossible to allow athletes to receive compensation. The law’s requirement to distribute financial aid to athletes in a manner proportionate to gender would not put college athletic departments out of business — it would just cause them to adapt to a new business model that in which less money is available for “overhead.” It may not be possible, the editorial suggests, for schools to continue to pay the head football coach the highest salaries in higher education, if athletes are also receiving some form of compensation. It also points out that the NCAA could permit athletes to negotiate their own licensing agreements without any Title IX consequences whatsoever, since the money would be flowing to athletes directly and not the institution.
These are good points, I think. While we’ve criticized the NCAA membership for ignoring the effect on Title IX compliance of proposals to compensate athletes (such as when they allowed schools to pay stipends to only those athletes in head-count sports and not equivalency sports), I agree that it’s also not fair to let them argue “Title IX won’t let us” as an excuse not to consider fairness reforms.
Of course, my opinion is that playing sports in college shouldn’t be tantamount to a professional responsibility in the first place, and that the ROI on athletic department expenditures should be measured in educational values, not profits. But until we live in that alternative universe, it makes sense to both insist that athlete compensation comply with Title IX and, at the same time, not accept Title IX as an excuse to preserve status quo.