FULL EPISODE: 4/04/21 OSU Athletic Dir. Gene Smith and Olympian Tom McMillen talk college athlete compensation

Published: Apr. 3, 2021 at 8:56 PM EDT
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Washington, D.C. – Greta Van Susteren interviewed Ohio State University athletic director Gene Smith, Lead1 Association president and CEO Tom McMillen, and University of Pennsylvania adjunct assistant professor Karen Weaver about college athlete compensation for Gray Television’s “Full Court Press with Greta Van Susteren,” airing Sunday, April 4, 2021.

All three guests said they supported student athletes’ “name, image and likeness” (NIL) rights and the ability to build their own brand.

On whether athletes should be compensated, OSU’s Gene Smith told Van Susteren he did not believe students should be employees. “That takes it away from the educational experience,” he said.

Former professional basketball player, congressman, and now president and CEO of the 1A Association, Tom McMillen, said the outcome of the Supreme Court case would “be a critical juncture in sort of the evolution of where college sports go.”

“I think it’s really going to be different,” said Penn professor Karen Weaver on what college sports would look like two years from now.

Interview highlights are below.

Gene Smith Highlights

On name, image and likeness [NIL] versus compensating athletes

Gene Smith, Athletic Director, Ohio State University

I am a big believer in name, image, and likeness. I think that’s why I was chosen to be a co-chair of the federal state and legislative working group a couple of years ago to evaluate name, image and likeness and I believe that it should be implemented. I am not a believer that student athletes should be employees, that institutions should just be able to just pay student athletes paychecks. That takes it away from the educational experience.

On the NCAA

Gene Smith, Athletic Director, Ohio State University

Let’s be clear. The NCAA is not a group of people in Indianapolis, sitting around the table, making decisions. The rules and regulations are in place by the NCAA [were] voted in by the institutions. The NCAA office is just administering, administering the rules and regulations that the membership has voted in it.

Gene Smith, Athletic Director, Ohio State University

And so, that lack of understanding is kind of challenging because so many people throw grenades at DSG, NCAA. They’re really throwing grenades at the individual institutions and that goes all the way from Belmont to Ohio State or Wisconsin. And so, what we need to do is a better job around bringing our rules into a modern era. And that’s why I think NIL, frankly in 2001 when it was first talked about, should have been implemented already. And that’s why cost of attendance when it was talked about 1997 should’ve been implemented prior to 2000, but it wasn’t implemented until 2013, and it’s like moving a battleship in the ocean, Greta.

Gene Smith, Athletic Director, Ohio State University

But the reality is the federal government and then there’s additional regulations the NCAA needs to put in place that the schools ultimately would vote on.

Tom McMillen Highlights

On the SCOTUS case

Tom McMillen, President and CEO, Lead1 Association

The Supreme Court decision ….will be very instrumental because they’re going to say either the NCAA’s idea of amateurism is meritorious or it’s not. And I think that’ll be a critical juncture in sort of the evolution of where college sports go.

On the NCAA

Greta Van Susteren

The NCAA, which some people have called a cartel, are the ones who make the rules on whether things are to be compensated or not, whether or not athletes will have the value of their name, image, and likeness or not. They’re fighting that in the Supreme Court. But they also pay a pretty hefty salary to the CEO of NCAA, which you’re entitled to. But tell me your thoughts on the NCAA, does that need to be revised a bit?

Tom McMillen, President and CEO, Lead1 Association

Well, I mean the NCAA just by its nature, it’s very slow-moving. You have 1,100 schools, it’s hard to get consensus on anything. So they’re not a fast-moving organization, oftentimes, very reactive. I think if they had to do it over again, they would have tried to do this name, image, and likeness thing quicker. Now they’re kind of being held up because Congress is looking at it, while the Supreme court’s looking at broader issues. And also you have the Department of Justice who’s now weighing in here. So these things are complicated.

On compensating student-athletes

Tom McMillen, President and CEO, Lead1 Association

“Where everybody’s concerned is that if you look at some of the congressional proposals, at collective bargaining, revenue sharing...In one of the bills, in revenue sharing, every basketball player would get $350,000 of value including their scholarship. Well, you can say that’s good or bad, but that’s got to come from somewhere, that money. It’s going to come from all the other sports that provide thousands of opportunities for student-athletes.

Tom McMillen, President and CEO, Lead1 Association

I just don’t think that we need to professionalize these enterprises. We need to do more to help the student-athlete, protect them medically, and all that. But let’s keep college college, and the pros the pros.

On whether college sports generate a lot of revenue

Greta Van Susteren

Do some college sports like football and basketball predominantly, do they generate a lot of revenue for the universities or most universities?

Tom McMillen, President and CEO, Lead1 Association

No, not really. Of our 130 FPS schools, only 25 of them make more money than they spend. Most of the schools in our programs pour millions, billions of dollars into their Olympic sports. So they take the revenue from basketball, football, which is the only sports they really make money. and they pour it into all these other sports, creating opportunities for kids. Of our 55,000 student-athletes, only 20,000 of them are basketball and football players.


Tom McMillen, President and CEO, Lead1 Association

The NBA and the NFL should not put barriers up for a kid who does not want to go to college, that wants to find a way to the pathway to the pros and is good enough to do that. To require them to go to college is kind of ludicrous. That’s our system today. We don’t have these problems in baseball. A kid makes a choice when they are finishing high school, are they going to go to college for a few years, or are they going to go to the pros? We need a similar system for football and basketball because it’s wrong to say you have to go to college if you want to play in the pros.

Karen Weaver Highlights

On NIL and athletes creating a brand

Karen Weaver, Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Pennsylvania

I think it absolutely should be unrestricted for athletes to be able to do this. And here’s why. If I’m a music major, if I’m an artist on campus, if I’m a dancer, I can get paid for using those skillsets. As an athlete, the NCAA prohibits me from doing that at a time in my life when I need to really expand my horizon, strengthen my ability to brand my own abilities and also to be an entrepreneur. And so many of this Gen Z is so skilled in social media. They’re coming to campuses with hundreds of thousands of followers on TikTok and Instagram. And there will be brands who will want to monetize them and they’ll see them as a great spokesperson for their particular brand.

On what should happen now

Karen Weaver, Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Pennsylvania

I think you need some sort of collective understanding of what the end goal is. And everybody in agreement that this is what we’re going to do and this population of athletes is what we’re going to do. Whether that is the NCAA, which is under tremendous fire right now, because it has mismanaged so much of this in the last 15 or 20 years, or if it’s some sort of federal trade commission or congressional oversight. Either way, it’s going to take some agreement as to what the path is going forward so that schools can then plan.

On Title IX and compensating women athletes

Karen Weaver, Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Pennsylvania

I think most people think of it as a men’s only discussion, but we’re seeing now in the WNBA, in the National Women’s Soccer League, at the World Cup level that women want to be paid, they deserve to be paid. So you can’t leave them out of the conversation just because it didn’t occur to you. I think there’s been some arguments made in the last few weeks that actually we’re undervaluing the amount of money that women basketball players are making for the NCAA.

Karen Weaver, Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Pennsylvania

We have to be really careful about the kind of attention we give to the accounting practices for both of these organizations. Because I do think that some of the women’s sports, women’s basketball being one, women’s softball being another that could really start to grow some of their revenues.

On whether college sports look different in two years

Karen Weaver, Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Pennsylvania

It’s going to be different. I think between the Supreme Court case, the names, images, and likenesses legislation in the states, Congress’ bipartisan interest in all of this, I think it’s really going to be different.


About Greta Van Susteren:

Greta Van Susteren is the Chief Political Analyst for Gray Media and host of Full Court Press. Ms. Van Susteren is a veteran of Fox News Channel, MSNBC, and CNN. Her prime-time Fox News Channel Show, “On the Record,” was number 1 in its time slot for 14 1⁄2 years. Before joining Fox News, she hosted CNN’s prime-time news and analysis program, “The Point with Greta Van Susteren,” and co-hosted the network’s daily legal analysis show, “Burden of Proof.” Her legal analysis for CNN’s coverage of Election 2000 earned her the American Bar Association’s Presidential Award for Excellence in Journalism. She continues to host the weekly 30-minute program “Plugged In with Greta Van Susteren” on Voice of America, which broadcasts exclusively outside of the United States.

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