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  • Writer's pictureJonathan Tunney

Independent Federal Agency Opens Door for Financial Compensation of College Athletes

Dartmouth College Basketball Players ruled to be employees of their school

By: Jonathan Tunney

February 20, 2024


Photo Credit: Dartmouth Athletics

What Happened?

On Monday, February 5th, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that Dartmouth College basketball players are employees of their school. This NLRB ruling paves the way for players to join Local 560 of the Service Employees International Union, the current union branch of other Dartmouth employees. By joining this union, the players hope to receive the same benefits as all other unionized employees at the university, most notably a wage of $20 per hour plus health care premiums that protect against injuries.


The Effect of the Ruling on College Athletics

Currently, the NLRB only has jurisdiction over private institutions, including Dartmouth, other Ivy League Schools, Notre Dame, USC, and others. Under the NLRB’s ruling, players could choose to form their own unions instead of joining existing unions as well as negotiate for “fair market wages” on their own accord. Therefore, the ruling regarding the Dartmouth basketball players has massive implications given the precedent it sets in the realm of college sports.


If USC football players decided to form a union and demanded “fair market wages” as employees of the school, how much would they be paid? Considering the Big Ten’s new $7 billion TV deal, any “fair market wage” would probably exceed the aforementioned $20 per hour mark by a considerable margin. Additionally, if private schools are the only universities permitted to use a true pay-for-play model, those schools would possess a massive recruiting advantage over public schools, such as the recently crowned NCAA Football National Champions, the University of Michigan.


As a result, this legal development could bring an end to the NCAA’s amateurism model, leading to a massive payday for college athletes and forcing athletic departments to factor player salaries into their budgets. Therefore, many experts in and around the business of college athletics believe that the abolition of the NCAA’s amateurism model is only a matter of time, and the recent NLRB ruling could be the beginning of the end in this regard.


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