NCAA President Mark Emmert says the association might reconsider allowing college athletes who compete in the Olympics to accept payments for performance.
The NCAA rules allow athletes to accept money for training from the U.S. Olympic Committee or similar organizations in other countries along with national sports governing bodies.
Athletes can also keep bonuses given for winning medals. A gold medal was worth $25,000 for U.S. athletes in Rio. A silver paid $15,000 and a bronze $10,000. The NCAA has been OK with the USOC’s bonus program since 2001.
“The NCAA, at that time, the members passed a rule that said, ‘You know what? That’s fine. A kid wins a gold medal for his or her country, they can take $25,000,'” Emmert said Thursday. “‘They get to do it once in their academic career. It’s an extraordinary thing. We’ve got, like, five of those or 10 of those in any one year. Good for them.’”
In 2015, it allowed for athletes to accept similar bonuses from other countries. For some countries, the payments are much greater than America’s.
Swimmer Joseph Schooling, who attends the University of Texas and competes for Singapore, received more than $750,000 for winning gold over Michael Phelps in the 100m butterfly.
“To be perfectly honest, it’s causing everybody to go, ‘Oh, well, that’s not really what we were thinking about,'” Emmert said. “So, I don’t know where the members will go on that. I mean, that’s a little different than 15 grand for the silver medal for swimming for the U.S. of A. So, I think that’s going to stimulate a very interesting conversation.”
Emmert said during an interview with Aspen Institute that amount was far more than what NCAA membership had in mind.
“The question is whether that person is still an amateur,” Emmert said. “Because if they competed in South Africa and then [were] paid $750,000 to play ball in South Africa, they would be declared a professional athlete and not eligible for NCAA play. That’s the fundamental problem.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.