It has become common to hear critics argue that big-time college athletes are being exploited by their institutions and that they should be paid fair market value for their services. This article argues that such a policy, if adopted, could have some unexpected consequences for the colleges. The traditional justification for not taxing athletic income (basically meaning, for most big-time schools, that from football and basketball) is that the participants are student athletes, that the activities are related to the colleges’ overall educational purposes, and that the athletic revenue is therefore not subject to the tax on unrelated business income. Recognizing that the athletes are professionals, and only marginally students, has something to be said for it if the goal is honesty. But openly severing the connection between education and athletics-doing away with the concept of the “student athlete”-could have the effect of treating football at Big State University as an unrelated business, with a potentially large tax bite for the University.


Student Athlete, Unrelated Business Income Tax, Taxation, Athletic Income, University

Publication Date


Document Type


Place of Original Publication

Utah Law Review

Publication Information

1987 Utah Law Review 35 (1987)

Included in

Tax Law Commons


COinS Erik M. Jensen Faculty Bio