Regulate Spending of College Sports Like Charities

In its May 22, 2009 edition, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported on the testimony of John D. Colombo at the May 2009 meeting of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics. Colombo, a professor at the University of Illinois College of Law, stated the spending of college athletics can be regulated similar to that of charities, with conditions attached to exemptions under the tax code, and giving the IRS the authority to enforce them. The Chronicle reported on Colombo’s testimony that revoking the tax exempt status may be unlikely, but adding new regulations may be a subtler way to make changes to the financial pressures in college sports.

As stated by Colombo: “It’s not very helpful for reformers to ask the Internal Revenue Service to do something that it probably legally cannot do, like pull the tax exemption from the NCAA or colleges. Instead, I think the reformers probably need a more nuanced approach to using the tax laws as a reform vehicle.” With conditions attached to the tax exempt status, colleges would be forced to make a choice. “If you don’t want to abide by the rules, that’s great. You don’t have to be tax exempt,” he said. “But if you do want a tax exemption, you’re going to have to abide by these rules.