College Athletes Demand Pay, But May Have Sacked Themselves

Author: Matt Huffman, Associate Member, University of Cincinnati Law Review

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and its member schools collect hundreds of millions of dollars each year from the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and Division I Basketball broadcasts and video games. The schools make a substantial amount of money from licensing players’ names, likenesses, and images to television and video game companies. However, players do not receive any of this money. They agree to give up the use of their names, likenesses, and images when they accept an athletic scholarship, and in return, their schools may provide tuition, room and board, and book expenses. But players may soon receive a part of television and video game revenue if the recent decision in O’Bannon v. National Collegiate Association is upheld.[1] While student-athletes have long sought to receive a portion of the huge sums of broadcasting and video game revenue they help generate, the proposed payments in O’Bannon could not be treated as athletic scholarships under § 117 of the Internal Revenue Code (§ 117) and would not comply with Title IX. In fact, paid student-athletes under the O’Bannon settlement framework would likely be considered employees of the school and would be required to include the payments in their gross income, resulting in significant tax liabilities for both players and universities.

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