Wisconsin: 'No plans to stop offering athletics' in wake of chancellor's testimony in player-compensation trial

Wisconsin is wholeheartedly in favor of the NCAA’s current rules regarding player compensation. (Getty)
Wisconsin is wholeheartedly in favor of the NCAA’s current rules regarding player compensation. (Getty)

The University of Wisconsin issued a statement Tuesday saying the school had no intention to disband its athletic department.

No, Saturday’s loss to BYU wasn’t so traumatic that the school started thinking about the future of the football program and other sports. The statement comes on the heels of testimony by chancellor Rebecca Blank, who said Monday that it was “not clear” the school would have athletics if players were paid.

Blank made comments at antitrust trial

Blank’s testimony came as part of an antitrust trial in Oakland, California, about the limits of player compensation in college sports.

From Law 360:

“It’s not clear that we would continue to run an athletic program,” said Blank, whose school is a member of the Big Ten Conference. “We’re not interested in professional sports. We’re interested in student-athletes.”

NCAA athletes are not currently paid above cost of attendance stipends. The NCAA has long argued that players can’t be paid because they are students and amateurs. Players are also prevented from using their likeness to earn money via endorsements and other endeavors. The trial began in early September and the plaintiffs argue that the NCAA’s rules regarding player compensation are illegal.

Full Wisconsin statement

The school’s statement, which you can read in full below via Madison’s News 3, echoes Blank’s comments that the NCAA’s current rules “are appropriate to maintain a market for amateur athletics in the university setting.

The University of Wisconsin has no plans to stop offering athletics. Chancellor Blank strongly supports Wisconsin’s athletic program and believes the Badgers are a major asset to our campus and the Big Ten.

The chancellor’s comments yesterday were offered in the context of describing the economics of running a major broad-based amateur athletics program.

If a change to the structure of college athletics were to occur, UW would expect to be part of any conversation within the Big Ten and nationally about what that would mean for university athletic programs.

Plaintiffs in federal litigation have sought to invalidate NCAA rules governing the compensation that may be paid to collegiate student-athletes, arguing that student athletes are treated as professional athletes and should enjoy compensation for the use of their images, names and likenesses.

Chancellor Blank provided testimony to the court that there is a market separate from professional sports for amateur sports, that college athletes are students first, that paying student athletes would undermine the university community and treat certain student athletes differently than others.

Chancellor Blank believes that the current set of NCAA rules governing payments to student athletes for the use of their names, images and likenesses are appropriate to maintain a market for amateur athletics in the university setting.

American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco also testified at the trial on Monday. Per a reporter covering the trial, Aresco said television ratings increases for college sports were connected to the fact that players were amateurs. He was unable to back the assertion with data.

Awareness of the lack of rights college athletes have has dramatically increased in recent years. The result of the trial has a great chance to accelerate the player rights movement or bring it to a grinding halt.

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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