Is NCAA amateurism a sham? A 'student athlete' reality check
The American Enterprise Debates
About This Event

Post Event Summary
In an American Enterprise Debate on Tuesday evening, civil rights historian Taylor Branch faced off against John V. Lombardi of Louisiana State University to discuss the ways in which the NCAA has lost the concept of "student athlete." Branch blamed the NCAA for creating convoluted bylaws that safeguard the interests of American colleges without protecting their athletes. Student athletes, he contends, are treated unfairly in that they are denied basic market access and are not considered stakeholders in their own future. Consequently, they are demonized in a profoundly un-American way.

Lombardi countered Branch's claims about equity for athletes in college sports by demonstrating that the NCAA franchise is consistently losing money. He further emphasized that the cost of enforcing fair competition is high but worthwhile, stressing that no one is forced to take part in the system if they believe it’s immoral. The debaters agreed that some reforms might be necessary to better protect college athletes' interests, such as returning revenues from video game licensing to the athletes directly.
--Daniel Hanson

Event Description
In the next American Enterprise Debate, Taylor Branch, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of "The Cartel," will face off against longtime higher ed practitioner John V. Lombardi over whether the NCAA has lost the concept of "student athlete" and jeopardized education quality, student rights and the nonprofit status of both the NCAA and the schools involved.

Branch will argue that universities and commercial enterprises exploit student athletes for financial gain while failing to appropriately compensate them, and Lombardi will argue that students are well compensated and that practical matters prohibit exhaustive overhauls to the system. AEI's Thomas P. Miller will moderate.

If you are unable to attend, we welcome you to watch the event live on this page. Full video will be posted within 24 hours.


5:30 PM
Thomas P. Miller, AEI

Taylor Branch, The Atlantic
John V. Lombardi, Louisiana State University
Thomas P. Miller, AEI

6:30 PM
Wine and Cheese Reception

Event Contact Information

For more information, please contact Daniel Hanson at [email protected], 202.862.5883.

Media Contact Information

For media inquiries, please contact Véronique Rodman at [email protected], 202.862.4871.

Speaker Biographies

Taylor Branch is a Pulitzer Prize–winning historian and journalist who currently writes for The Atlantic. Branch’s “America in the King Years,” a three-volume chronicle of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and the broader civil rights movement, is among the most highly regarded works of American history. Branch has also written for many media outlets, served in political campaigns and authored several books. He has received the National Humanities Medal — the nation’s highest honor in the humanities — and a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. Branch’s most recent book, “The Cartel,” details the corruption within the NCAA and what might be done to remedy it.

John V. Lombardi is a professor of history at Louisiana State University (LSU). Previously, Lombardi served as the president of the LSU system, as chancellor of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, as president of the University of Florida and as provost of Johns Hopkins University. Lombardi worked to substantially reform the athletics system at the University of Florida and has widely commented on higher education issues. Lombardi is the author of dozens of books and academic articles, writes the popular blog Inside Higher Ed and has served on many committees to advance and reform collegiate structures.

Thomas P. Miller is a resident fellow at AEI, where he focuses on health policy with a particular emphasis on information transparency, health insurance regulation and consumer-driven health care. He was a member of the National Advisory Council for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality from 2007 to 2009. Before joining AEI, Miller served for three years as a senior health economist for the Joint Economic Committee, where he organized a series of hearings focused on promising reforms in private health care markets. He has also been the director of health policy studies at the Cato Institute and director of economic policy studies at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Miller’s writing has appeared in publications such as Health Affairs, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Reader’s Digest, National Review and Before moving to Washington, D.C., to work on public policy, he was a trial attorney, journalist and sports broadcaster.

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