In light of the Freeh report of what went wrong at Penn State and why Jerry Sandusky was not stopped, many are asking what should be done next. Josh Barro has a proposal, use this opportunity end the NCAA's exploitative monopoly on college sports:
What the NCAA does is fundamentally abusive: it holds the wage for minor league football and basketball players down to zero, under the pretense that its workers are students. The person who put this best was Robert Barro (my father), writing for Bloomberg Businessweek in 2002 that the NCAA is America’s most effective monopoly:
The NCAA is impressive partly because its limitations on scholarships and other payments to athletes boost the profitability of college sports programs. But even more impressive is the NCAA's ability to maintain the moral high ground. For example, many college basketball players come from poor families and are not sufficiently talented to make it to the NBA. Absent the NCAA, such a student would be able to amass significant cash during a college career. With the NCAA in charge, this student remains poor. Nevertheless, the athletic association has managed to convince most people that the evildoers are the schools that violate the rules by attempting to pay athletes rather than the cartel enforcers who keep the student-athletes from getting paid.
Football is even worse: it has the same labor dynamics as basketball, and is also bad for players’ health. Yet these enterprises are hugely profitable for universities, in part because labor costs are held so low. And that makes it difficult for university administrators to rein in their athletic programs, as we saw when Penn State’s administrators let Joe Paterno overrule them about notifying the state of Sandusky’s behavior. Football was the lifeblood of Penn State, so it was more like Paterno was the university president’s boss than vice-versa.
There is demand for minor league basketball and football, but there’s no need for it to be tied to universities, or for the leagues to abuse their workers.