Is the First College Sports PAC for the Purpose of Preventing Pay for Play?

The athletic directors at 129 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) colleges and universities announced recently that they are forming a political action committee, called LEAD1, to lobby Congress. Not only can PACs give limited donations to candidates and parties, they can also — as a result of Citizens United — spend as much as they want to support or defeat a candidate, party, or legislation. LEAD1 is the first college sports PAC.

Conventional wisdom holds that the FBS athletic directors created LEAD1 to try to prevent college athletes from being paid. Pay for play and other issues related to amateurism often make headline news these days, two examples being the O’Bannon v. NCAA case and Northwestern University football players trying to unionize. One LEAD1 committee is chaired by the Northwestern athletic director, who opposed the players’ attempt to unionize. LEAD1 might lobby for or against certain National Labor Relations Board nominees, judicial nominees, or congressional candidates depending on their positions on the issues. Or LEAD1 could lobby for or against pertinent legislation.

LEAD1 is only in its infancy. It remains to be seen what its true goals are, how effective it will be at achieving them, and whether it will spur the creation of more college sports PACs.

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