Nigel Hayes says Wisconsin once considered boycott in protest of NCAA compensation rules

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The topic of athlete compensation has been discussed in collegiate athletics for quite some time, with there being some who believe that the current scholarship setup is more than enough while others believe that athletes should at bare minimum be able to profit off of their own name, image(s) and likeness if not be paid directly.

And given the impact that revenue streams have had on collegiate athletics, from large television rights deals to conference realignment to salaries for head coaches, that conversation won’t be going away even if some choose to ignore it.

During a panel discussion at an Aspen Institute event in Washington, D.C. Tuesday, former Wisconsin forward Nigel Hayes discussed a situation in which he and his teammates considered boycotting a game in order to protest the NCAA’s limits on what athletes can receive.

Per Hayes, the game in question was Wisconsin’s matchup with Syracuse during the 2016-17 season as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. The boycott was an “all or nothing” deal: all of the players had to be on board in order for them to go through with it.

Hayes said the following regarding the proposed boycott in an interview with Steve Berkowitz of USA TODAY following Tuesday’s panel discussion:

“In hindsight, I think those guys that said no would change their mind now. That’s usually what happens. The guys who don’t go on to the NBA, once they leave college, they look back and say, ‘Wow, I was exploited — and now I have nothing to show for it.’ … So, I think we missed our opportunity, but hopefully this word gets out and it will inspire a group of kids that in college now or will be in college.”

Boycotting games in order to take a stand against the NCAA’s concept of “amateurism” has been discussed on occasion in recent years, but ultimately nothing has happened. Could there be a day when a team decides collectively that they won’t take the court (or field)? It wouldn’t be wise to rule out such a possibility, but it would take a team that would believe both as individuals and as a group that the potential benefits would outweigh the risks (ex.- losing one’s scholarship).

With it appearing as if those in power will do all they can to preserve the current system, as evidenced most recently by the Rice Commission not even touching “amateurism” in its report released last week, it may take more than one boycott to enact change.