Nigel Hayes spoke at the “Future of College Sports: Reimagining Athlete Pay” panel The Aspen Institute hosted in Washington D.C. Tuesday. Here, Hayes discussed the future of college athlete compensation alongside a panel of front office executives for different college programs.
But perhaps the biggest surprise of the night came partway through the conversation where Hayes recalled a specific instance in the 2016-17 season where he tried to organize a boycott of the Syracuse game in November. At the time, the game made big headlines as a statement 77–60 win for the Badgers, but the story would have been much bigger had the team sat out the primetime contest.
“I presented it to our guys as we had our goals that year and it wouldn’t impact any of the goals because it was a non-[Big Ten] game which doesn’t affect the [conference]. It’s not in the NCAA Tournament so it’s not like we can lose that. And it doesn’t hurt our record because it’s more of a forfeit kind of thing than it is a loss,” Hayes said.
Hayes ultimately opted against the decision, as the entire team wasn’t comfortable with forfeiting the match.
Hayes also talked about one instance of hypocrisy within the NCAA’s student-athlete policy that occurred during the Badgers championship game run in 2015.
In April 2015, the University Book Store stopped selling a t-shirt that had something Hayes said during a press conference. Selling the t-shirt was not a good move for UW because, under NCAA rules, Hayes could not be compensated at all for a shirt with a direct quote from him.
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Despite the bookstore mishap, Hayes made clear earlier in the discussion that former Coach Bo Ryan and the University of Wisconsin program have always supported his efforts to get just compensation for his performance. The former Badger is still involved in two lawsuits against the NCAA he began as a freshman with the assistance of teammate Zach Bohannon.
While you may agree or disagree with boycotting a game, the discussion Hayes is trying to have is important. Despite former players and pundits encouraging it, the discussion is yet to bring any significant change in the NCAA rulebook.