Notre Dame would stop playing major college football if schools paid players

Notre Dame president, Rev. John I. Jenkins, said if college football turns into a model where athletes are treated like employees, the Irish would start its own league.

In an interview with The New York Times, Jenkins said he doesn’t oppose student-athletes making more money in terms of scholarship stipends, but he draws the line when the amateur model becomes one of a semiprofessional league.

“Our relationship to these young people is to educate them, to help them grow,” Father Jenkins told The Times. “Not to be their agent for financial gain.”

More from The New York Times:

And if that somehow comes to pass, [Father Jenkins] says, Notre Dame will leave the profitable industrial complex that is elite college football, boosters be damned, and explore the creation of a conference with like-minded universities.

That’s right: Notre Dame would take its 23.9-karat-gold-flecked football helmets and play elsewhere.

“Perhaps institutions will make decisions about where they want to go — a semipro model or a different, more educational model — and I welcome that,” Father Jenkins says. “I wouldn’t consider that a bad outcome, and I think there would be schools that would do that.”

Father Jenkins said that even without the big-name opponents, Notre Dame football would continue to be one of the most well-known brands in the game. It would just do it on its terms.

Father Jenkins contends that the Notre Dame education — and the massive network of alumni (prestigious and otherwise) joined after graduation — is more than enough compensation for what a student-athlete gives to the university.

“I’d say that education is more valuable than however much money we might give you,” Father Jenkins told The Times. “So focus on that. We’re going to do everything we can to help you be successful in getting that education.”

Obviously, paying players has been a major topic of discussion for the past couple years. To quiet the crowd, schools in the Power Five conferences — and others in the FBS and FCS — have introduced cost of attendance scholarships, which provide an extra stipend for various expenses outside of the traditional tuition, books, room and board. Notre Dame has embraced the cost of attendance stipend, but that’s where Father Jenkins said Notre Dame’s payment to student-athletes would end.

Father Jenkins contends that even if the school was to cease participating in big-name football because of its moral opposition to treating players like employees, he said he doesn’t think the financial giving to the school would cease.

“If tomorrow you told me, you just can’t do what you want to do in athletics and you’re going to have to shut it down, and we would have club sports, something like that — I don’t think it would significantly impact the revenue,” Father Jenkins told The Times.

“Would someone who was going to give a gift to Notre Dame for a chair in philosophy or physics not give it if we did without football? I don’t think so.

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