Home / Blog / Article




January 16 2015

Just What We Need: Economist Proposes Presidential Commission on College Sports

Charlotte Hays

Citing questions about paying college athletes and several other economic issues involved in college sports, Andrew Zimbalist, a professor of economics at Smith College, has a solution: more government involvement.

Writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Zimbalist went so far as to call for a presidential commission on the future of college athletics:

Congress can stand idly by, as it is wont to do, and refuse to get involved in the business of college sports. Or, it can recognize that it is already involved in that business—via an elaborate network of tax preferences and subsidies—and that the system needs help.

In a step toward constructive bipartisan leadership, Congress should pass a bill calling for a presidential commission on college athletics and move it to Barack Obama’s desk.

Actually, it would be great if Congress would stand idly by and refuse to get more involved in the business of college sports. Congress hasn't stood idly by enough in recent years.

Zimbalist, whose works are often invoked by the feminist Women’s Sports Foundation, argued that college athletics could solve financial problems better with the help of government.

The American Sports Council begs to differ. A blog on their website states that …

... Zimbalist doesn’t offer any ideas for an optimal outcome for the problem other than more government. Asking the federal government to create regulations to control costs is like asking the Ultimate Fighting Championship to offer solutions to control violence in sports.

Then why would he propose a Presidential Commission? In one word, it’s about control. A Presidential Commission on college athletics would be conducted through the US Department of Education.

Anyone who is experienced in DC politics knows that the “inside the Beltway” groups would hold outsized influence in every step; from staffing the commission, controlling selection of testimony, and creating final recommendations.

If a presidential commission were set up, the blogger worries that these final recommendations would come from the very groups that have taken Title IX, a perfectly good law, and turned it into a lawsuit-generating quota system:

In this case, one organization with critical influence in the Obama Administration’s Department of Education would be the National Women’s Law Center, a key ally of the Women’s Sports Foundation. With the NWLC on the inside of the process, there’s little doubt that their political agenda would drive the commission. This is the same agenda that twisted Title IX enforcement into the unreasonable gender quota regime we have today. A Presidential Commission is not the solution to the problem. It would only grant power to the same sort of government functionaries who have helped make such a mess of Title IX compliance.

Instead of a presidential commission, how about some changes in the NCAA:

Instead of another commission, it’s time for college administrators to acknowledge that when they start paying football and basketball players ‘stipends’ in response to the O’Bannon decision they will create a semi-professional status for these athletes.

The football programs in the Big Five conferences clearly operate under a different set of priorities than the rest of the schools in the NCAA. Maybe now is the time for those revenue focused programs to go their own way in pursuit of profits. Meanwhile, the vast majority of schools, the institutions that believe in the educational value of intercollegiate athletics, can follow a separate path free of the financial and legal pressures that will be a consequence of semi professional college sports.



Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
Follow us