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Mark Emmert says NCAA could rethink policy that permits athletes to receive payouts for winning Olympic medals

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Emmert was recently making at least $1.8 million to lead the NCAA.

NCAA Men's Final Four - Previews Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Singapore and University of Texas swimmer Joseph Schooling won the 100m butterfly race at the Summer Olympics. For his victory, under a policy of Singapore’s national Olympic committee, Schooling got a $740,000 payout. That’s a life-changing amount of money, the result of Schooling training hard enough to beat Michael Phelps for gold.

The NCAA, normally opposed to athletes being paid for their performance, has historically been fine with their acceptance of Olympic payouts. Under a rule passed in 2001, the NCAA allows NOCs to pay athletes rewards without any eligibility consequence.

Thursday, NCAA president Mark Emmert talked about this at a think-tank event in Washington, as USA Today’s Steve Berkowitz reports. Speaking about Schooling’s big Olympic payday, Emmert gave voice to some worrying about this, which he attributes to other powers that be in college athletics.

"To be perfectly honest, it’s causing everybody to go, ‘Oh, well, that’s not really what we were thinking about,’" Emmert said, referencing the 2001 rule. "So, I don’t know where the members will go on that. I mean, that’s a little different than 15 grand for the silver medal for swimming for the U.S. of A. So, I think that’s going to stimulate a very interesting conversation."

What the NCAA had in mind when it said athletes could get Olympic money was, in Emmert’s words, something more mild. According to Emmert, the rule said, "You know what? That’s fine. A kid wins a gold medal for his or her country, they can take $25,000. They get to do it once in their academic career. It’s an extraordinary thing. We’ve got, like, five of those or 10 of those in any one year. Good for them."

As of a few years ago, Emmert was making more than $1.8 million to run the NCAA, an organization that does not pay its athletes. He received a contract extension earlier this year, and the NCAA didn’t disclose financial terms.