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U.T. Sports Law Expert Says Student Athletes Deserve Compensation

KUT News
No shortage of fans willing to pay to be in these seats on game days

This week, a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board ruled that Northwestern University athletes can legally form a union.

Here in Austin, UT Law professor Dr. Lucas Powe sees it as a change that can be expected for elsewhere.

“Coaches make multi-million dollars, universities are taking in millions of dollars and they’re not paying the players, if the players get injured, they’re thrown away," Powe says. "It’s been a scandal and I think within the next few years the NCAA will be paying players.”

Dr. Powe says student athletes also should have something like workers compensation in case of debilitating injury. Powe's areas of expertise include the U.S. Constitution and the U.S. Supreme Court, where he worked as a clerk before coming to U.T. in the early 1970s. 

Powe says he rejects the idea that college athletes are amateurs. He says the Northwestern case is just one of many seeking to discredit that notion. He says an appeal of the ruling could take years, but says, ultimately, he thinks the NCAA will end up having to pay players.

“Once the NCAA is forced to allow football and basketball players to be paid, every school that wants to be a power will have to go along with it,” he says. 

Powe does not expect the same for athletes in other kinds of college sports.

"You can define 'pay' in different ways," he says. "I suspect the tennis and golf players are content to be playing tennis and playing golf as a happy way through and hopefully on a scholarship or half-scholarship. I think there's a real difference between the money-making sports and the others." 

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