College athletes becoming employees is ‘worst thing’ for them, Clemson’s Dabo Swinney says

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College athletes and the possibility of their status going from amateurs to employees of their schools did not appear to sit well with Clemson head football coach Dabo Swinney.

Last month, a federal judge barred the NCAA from enforcing rules that prohibit NIL compensation from being used to recruit athletes. The judge wrote that the NCAA’s prohibition likely violates federal antitrust law and harms athletes.


Dabo Swinney grins

Clemson Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney looks on following their game against the NC State Wolfpack at Carter-Finley Stadium on Oct. 28, 2023 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Lance King/Getty Images)

The first step toward college athletes being employees was launched before the ruling, as a National Labor Relations Board regional official ruled that Dartmouth men’s basketball players are employees, potentially clearing the way for an election that would create the first labor union for student-athletes.

Swinney disagreed with the model.

“The best thing for coaches in the kind of world we’re in right now is for (athletes) to be employees,” Swinney said last week, via the Post and Courier. “The worst thing for (the athletes) is to be employees. That’s not a world we want for 18-year-olds. … I think we lost our way.”

Swinney said he would rather see an emphasis on education while athletes get paid instead of having one or the other.

Dabo Swinney walks out

Clemson Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney looks on before the start of the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl against the Kentucky Wildcats at EverBank Stadium on Dec. 29, 2023 in Jacksonville, Florida. (James Gilbert/Getty Images)


“(I) think the NIL is awesome,” he said, via Clemson Insider. “I really am (for it). I am all for enhancing the scholarship however you want, but I also understand the reality that ninety-eight percent of these kids are not going to play in the NFL. 

“We need to educate our young people in this society. Nobody talks about the value of an education anymore.”

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Swinney floated the idea of creating a 401(k) for athletes, and if they take money out early, they would face a penalty.

Dabo Swinney shakes hands

Clemson Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney during a college football game between the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and the Clemson Tigers on Nov. 11, 2023 at Clemson Memorial Stadium in Clemson, South Carolina. (John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)


NIL is clearly going to be a big factor in the college recruiting process moving forward. Coaches like Swinney will have to formulate a plan to keep up with the times.

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