What Would Paying Student Athletes Look Like?

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“Unions are tricky for college sports,” Jay Bilas, the ESPN college basketball analyst, said over the phone the other day, “because you’ve got public and private institutions and different state laws.”

“It’s not impossible to have a union of college athletes,” he said, “but it would be difficult.”

Bilas, who is a vocal critic of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, was referring, of course, to the news on Tuesday that the Dartmouth College men’s basketball team had voted 13 to 2 to form a union. He was skeptical that this latest shot across the N.C.A.A.’s bow would lead anywhere. Still, it was the latest example of the pressure the association is under to finally abandon “amateurism” — the N.C.A.A.’s long-held dogma that prevents college athletes from being paid. Of course over the past few years, many athletes have been able to put money in their pockets, thanks to so-called NIL payments (NIL stands for name, image and likeness). But that’s an ad hoc system, organized largely by supporters of the athletic department, that allows some athletes to bring in millions while others make nothing. It’s not the same as universities paying athletes they employ.

Bilas said it was clear that schools would soon have to pay their athletes in sports that bring in a lot of money, like football and men’s basketball. And he’s not the only one. Jeffrey Kessler, the lawyer who won the big antitrust case against the N.C.A.A. before a unanimous Supreme Court in 2021, has another case against the organization that is scheduled to go to trial in January. The suit alleges that college athletes have been illegally deprived of any payment for having their names, images and likenesses used in promotional broadcasting that have earned millions for big athletic conferences like the Big Ten. If he were to win that case — and the odds are in his favor — the N.C.A.A. and the conferences could be liable for up to $4 billion.

Although the N.C.A.A. remains stubbornly resistant to settling the antitrust cases against it, the prospect of paying billions in damages might finally bring the organization to the table. Either through a court victory or a settlement, the litigation could, Kessler said, lead to “the complete transformation of the current structure so that the athletes who generate all the revenue can receive fair compensation for what they are contributing.”

But if a new structure arose to compensate players, what would it look like? Andy Schwarz, an economist deeply involved in the fight to transform the N.C.A.A., told me that he could very well see unions playing a part — but it would be a different kind of union from what the Dartmouth players were trying to do. “You would have conference-level unions to negotiate the terms of employment and to enshrine in contracts the rights and duties of an athlete,” he wrote in an email. “In my view, the schools would provide the education and the conferences would be employing the athletes to be participants on a television program.” In other words, each conference would agree to a kind of collective bargaining agreement with a players’ association, just like professional sports.

Which still leaves the question of how individual players are paid under the umbrella of the collective bargaining agreement. Bilas told me that whenever he had been asked that question, he replied: “This is really simple. Just have a contract between the athlete and the school. Just like the rest of American business does.”

The contract could be about more than just compensation. It could have buyout clauses that would include financial penalties if a player jumped to another school, or if a school cut the player loose. It could be multiyear, which would create incentives for athletes to stay in school beyond freshman year. There could even be a clause to ensure the athlete receives a real education rather than “majoring in eligibility” as is so often the case today.

“At first,” Bilas said, “some players will be overpaid and some others might be underpaid, but pretty soon, a market will be established, and you’ll know what players are worth.”

Would Bilas’s idea further separate the major sports schools, like Ohio State and Alabama, from the smaller schools, like Ball State or Eastern Michigan, that won’t have the money to pay their athletes? Sure. But that divide already exists.

“The walls are rapidly closing in on the N.C.A.A.,” Kessler said. “Nine Supreme Court justices have recognized how exploitative this system is. How long can they hang on? It’s up to them. They can participate in the resolution and come up with a system for everybody or they can go kicking and screaming into the night.” — Joe Nocera

President Biden goes after big business and billionaires. In his State of the Union address, Biden signaled that he wanted to raise taxes on corporations and wealthy people. The policy wish list presented a contrast with Donald J. Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, even if it is unlikely to become law while the G.O.P. controls both the House and the Senate.

China revealed its economic growth target. The Chinese premier, Li Qiang, said that the world’s second biggest economy would aim for 5 percent growth in 2024, the same as last year. But he dashed investors’ hopes that Beijing would also announce measures to stimulate the economy, with some analysts saying that slow growth was the new normal.

Apple reversed course to allow a competing app store in Europe. The move to allow Epic Games to develop a game store for iPhones and iPads in Europe highlights how Apple is changing its operations to comply with the Digital Markets Act, a sweeping new law designed to help small businesses compete with the biggest. It came days after Apple was fined 1.8 billion euros ($1.95 billion) for thwarting competition from rival music streaming services through its dominant App Store.

TikTok comes under new pressure from U.S. lawmakers. The House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party introduced a bill that would ban TikTok from U.S. app stores unless ByteDance, its Chinese parent company, divests. The company urged its users to tell their representatives in Washington to vote against the bill, leading to Congressional offices being overwhelmed with calls.

One year after a rapid run on deposits at regional banks set off fears of a financial crisis, forcing government intervention, banks are gearing up for a big fight with their regulators.

Those regulators want to roll out a new proposal for banks to set aside more liquid funds to weather an emergency — a risk that the $1 billion rescue of New York Community Bank by private investors on Wednesday drove home.

But big banks are already pushing back on an existing plan to force them to hold more capital. And their protests could be successful: Jay Powell, the Fed chair, this week signaled that plans to make the biggest banks hold more capital may be overhauled.

DealBook spoke to Rohit Chopra, who leads the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, about what went wrong last year and how to fix it. His answers have been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.

What do you think of Powell’s signal that regulators may retreat from new capital requirements for big banks?

There has not been a final rule published. That’s an ongoing rule-making. But large banks need more skin in the game. Certainly, a lot of the financial industry told us in 2022 that everything is great: “We don’t see any risk of significant failure on the horizon.” And then last March, we had a domino effect of several banks going down, and, absent emergency intervention, more would have gone down. So I don’t think we live in a world where we can count on large banks always being OK. And because they take a lot of insured deposits, they get a lot of implicit and explicit federal subsidies and their failure can cause global financial crises, we gotta make sure that their shareholders are the ones who hold the bag when things go wrong. That’s the reason for doing it.

What other solutions are available?

We have a system right now where smaller banks have limits, but the very largest essentially can hand out free unlimited deposit insurance because there’s a perception that they would be rescued if they screwed up, that they’re implicitly insured. That, to me, seems fundamentally unfair. I would favor raising the cap on deposit insurance substantially so that there is some parity between small players and the biggest players.

I also favor more limitations on banks that are deeply dependent on these so-called uninsured deposits. When we look at Silicon Valley Bank, it was very fast growing, deeply dependent on uninsured deposits. There’s obviously more that could be done, but I’d certainly put those on the list.

Is the situation at NYCB, whose problems have been driven by mounting commercial real estate losses, a repeat of last year?

The issues we saw last year were not closely tied to commercial real estate. We have a lot of things that are still unresolved to make sure last year’s bank failures don’t recur. But at the same time, there’s the impending risks, and safeguarding the system for that, which includes commercial real estate.

Thanks for reading! We’ll see you Monday. In the meantime, remember, clocks in the United States spring forward tonight.

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