UW steps back from suggestion it would drop sports if it has to pay athletes

The chancellor of the University of Wisconsin raised — then tamped down — the possibility that the Badgers would eliminate sports if an effort to pay “student athletes” succeeds.

Rebecca Blank, a Minnesota native, testified on Monday at a landmark antitrust trial over the NCAA’s limits on compensation, basically preventing anything other than full scholarships.

But colleges treat athletes like professional athletes, using their names and likenesses to make money, and some athletes filed the suit in the belief it’s time to pay them for what they actually are.

In her testimony, however, Blank said the Badgers would have to review whether to remain in the NCAA if that happens.

“It’s not clear that we would continue to run an athletic program,” Blank said in her testimony, according to Law360. “We’re not interested in professional sports. We’re interested in student-athletes.”

But a spokesperson for the university, refusing to make Blank available for an interview, told the Wisconsin State Journal “the University of Wisconsin has no plans to stop offering athletics.”

“If a change to the structure of college athletics were to occur, UW would expect to be part of any conversation within the Big Ten and nationally about what that would mean for university athletic programs,” the statement said. “Chancellor Blank believes that the current set of NCAA rules governing payments to student athletes for the use of their names, images and likenesses are appropriate to maintain a market for amateur athletics in the university setting.”

On Tuesday, the commissioner of the PAC-12 conference defended his $4.5 million salary while testifying against paying the student athletes for their performance.