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Conference asks: should big-time college athletics be a tax-exempt enterprise?

University Park, Pa. — For many colleges and universities, athletics revenues surge as reliably as crowd noise on rivalry weekend, allowing profits from football and other big-time sports to support hundreds of student athletes. Taxation of collegiate athletics revenues will be the subject of a panel discussion at Penn State University, The Dickinson School of Law on Friday, September 18.

Panelists include James E. Delany, commissioner of the Big Ten; John D. Colombo, Albert E. Jenner Jr. Professor of Law of the University of Illinois; and Timothy Curley, director of Athletics at Penn State. The discussion will be moderated by Stephen Ross, professor of law and director of the Penn State Institute for Sports Law, Policy and Research, and sports ethicist R. Scott Kretchmar, a professor of kinesiology at Penn State who serves as the University’s faculty representative to the NCAA.

“The conference will be an excellent opportunity to review some facts and common criticisms about big-time sports,” Professor Ross said.

“The industry experts, Delany and Curley, can provide important commentary on whether it is possible to draw distinctions between millions spent for a new coach who ends up attracting even more revenue to the school — perhaps like Alabama's Nick Saban — and schools that drown in red ink from money-losing football programs that may actually hurt the school's operations.”

The federal tax code exempts from federal income taxation funds earned in the pursuit of a non-profit organization’s purpose, i.e. the activity that garners the organization its 501(c)(3) non-profit status. In the context of college sports, the athletic contest is an educational activity. The Congressional Budget Office examined this issue in a May 2009 report, “Tax Preferences for College Sports.”

The conference is organized by the Penn State’s Institute for Sports Law, Policy and Research and Department of Kinesiology and co-sponsored by Penn State’s Center for Sports Business and Research, Penn State’s John Curley Center for Sports Journalism, and the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics.

The public is welcome to the event, which begins at 1:30 p.m. in room 114 of Penn State Law’s new Lewis Katz Building, located off of Park Avenue and Bigler Road on Penn State’s University Park campus. The conference will be webcast live and simulcast to the law school’s facilities in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

Kelly Rimmer
(717) 240-5217
Crystal Stryker
(717) 240-5211

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