A day after a historic ruling that could change collegiate sports by allowing NCAA athletes to unionize, St. John’s coach Rick Pitino said the sport needs a salary cap and a new hierarchy to thrive.
The National Labor Relations Board ruled Monday that Dartmouth men’s basketball players, who had petitioned to be recognized by a local union, are employees of the school, a ruling that could allow NCAA athletes to unionize and negotiate work conditions, among other aspects of their employment.
Pitino tweeted Tuesday that the major conferences in college basketball should join forces and create a salary cap of up to $2 million. He did not specify if that number would include name, image and likeness payments or funding directly from schools.
“For basketball, have the Power 5 [and] Big East conference commissioners get together and create a salary cap between [$1.5 and $2 million],” Pitino tweeted. “All contracts delivered to the league and school offices.”
While Pitino didn’t suggest that the major conferences should split from the other schools, he said the cap should be different for those leagues.
“All other conferences establish their own salary cap,” he tweeted. “I would never exclude anyone from the NCAA tournament. Obviously, football is a different sport entirely and some of their talent makes more than NFL players. More solutions to follow in the coming days.”
After the NLRB ruling, Pitino joked that his players had asked to “work on their shooting,” but he told them he didn’t want them to exceed their hours for the week. The NCAA has been adamant that athletes are not employees.
Dartmouth can appeal the NLRB’s ruling, but the decision is another potentially groundbreaking event in a stretch that has rapidly reshaped collegiate athletics. NCAA president Charlie Baker has called for a “new tier” of college sports for the richest schools, which could then pay their athletes an annual stipend through a trust fund. The Big Ten and SEC, the two richest conferences in college sports, recently created a joint committee to discuss the future of collegiate athletics. And multiple lawsuits in recent months have challenged NCAA rules on transfers and NIL deals.
“We all want solutions to preserve our great game,” Pitino tweeted.
Pitino offered “Solution 2” in a tweet later Tuesday. He said the NCAA should be “taken out of the equation” in a new collegiate landscape, which should include contracts for players.
“Do away with letters of intent, make athletes sign a [two-year] binding contract, no different than professional athletes — which they are,” Pitino tweeted. “With that, the [NIL] collective puts together their NIL contract based on the cap. Obviously, a lot has to go into this. I believe the NCAA should be taken out of the equation and the commissioners put into it as the NCAA loses more cases than the defense lawyers on ‘Law & Order.'”