Phi Beta Cons

For Once, the NFL is a Good Role Model

The NFL just relinquished its tax-exempt status. Should the NCAA be next?

Today, the National Football League made a historic decision to end its nonprofit status. It’s about time.

But, as the Atlantic points out, the move is largely symbolic. All of the teams in the NFL are already taxed. Of professional football’s $10 billion revenue last year, the League itself brought in only $326 million.

But the NFL’s move will put pressure on other sports leagues to follow in its footsteps. I hope that pressure will extend to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and all the regional college sports conferences, whose teams (unlike those in the NFL) are not currently taxed.

There’s a lot of money on the line. The NCAA brought in $874 million in FY 2013. The Atlantic Coast Conference made $232 million. The Big 12 made $217 million. And the Southeastern Conference made $314 million. Nearly three dozen Division I conferences exist in total, raking in billions of dollars each year.

And, despite the NCAA’s best efforts, cracks in the veneer of “amateur athletics” programs have already begun to show. Putting pressure on college athletics associations and conferences to give up their tax-exempt status would hurry the process along.

Jenna A. RobinsonJenna Ashley Robinson is the president of the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy. Before becoming president, she was the center's director of outreach. She was previously the ...

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