By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The outlook of “amateur” sports changed forever July 1 with the passing of the of a law that will allow college athletes to benefit from their names, images and likenesses.
The historic decision was a combination of current athletes, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, state legislators and members of Congress. The proposed rules would provide athletes with varying degrees of new protections and opportunities to make money by selling their name, image and likeness rights while playing in college.
The NCAA’s Board of Governors unanimously voted in favor of permitting college athletes to financially profit from NIL. What does that look like?
Back in 1992 the name Chris Webber was like gold around Ann Arbor, Mich. His No. 4 jersey was must-wear gear across the country. And if you were playing a video game years later, you picked the Michigan Wolverines to have the skills of No. 4 in order to win.
Go back 29 years, Webber was not paid for it. But EA Sports, Nike, the University of Michigan among others made a few dollars off Webber.
Webber was basically property of the NCAA in the 1990s.
The old NCAA model for amateur intercollegiate athletics restricted college athletes from benefiting from any commercial value built from their reputation from their efforts on and off the playing field.
The tide started to change when former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon sued the NCAA because his likeness was used on video games years after his collegiate playing days were done. O’Bannon v. NCAA was an antitrust class action lawsuit filed against the NCAA to stop other entities from making money off these athletes.
Meanwhile, NCAA coaches were making millions from their contracts and endorsements. Everybody was making money off the student/athletes but the players themselves. It was exploitation for decades. And this law is a huge step away from that but I must warn us we have muddy waters ahead of us.
It will be a long time before this new legislation will be a success. I am about to breakdown 10 reasons the new NIL will have issues until things get ironed out.
10. Is it in the game?
Video games might return so we can play NCAA College Football and Basketball. There may even be a baseball video game in there too. But the issue will be those student/athletes making money from there sport while tennis, track, golf and other athletics not drawing in that extra revenue.
9. Pressure on
Let’s say you live in a city like Memphis. The pressure is on you FedEx to get us the best players for the Tigers. Let’s head Northwest to Oregon. Nike you need to secure the No. 1 recruit in the nation for the Ducks or Beavers.
But if that corporations have the final say, all the best players will be Washington Huskies because Amazon is headquartered in Seattle.
8. No Class
Student/athletes is the term we’ve tossed around for years. Let’s adjust that to read athlete/students. And the student part is questionable even more as of 2021.
Going to class was tough as a full-time student. My four years on the University of Memphis campus kept my mind, body and sometimes soul occupied. I couldn’t imagine being an athlete on top of that. It is hard enough so if I am getting paid well, my loyalty woulf be to my sponsors, not my education.
7. Social Media
Social media is important in most of our business aspects today. Posting online is vital to the success of a newspaper, a restaurant, a hotel and of course an athletic department. Now the athlete/students will have an obligation to their school and endorser. But who gets the scoop first? Who will have the privilege of the injury report? Who will the athlete/student channel their thoughts through first?
Do you send in a coach to get the child to come to the school? Or do you have a corporation’s boss visit the home of the best basketball player, wide receiver, pitcher or golfer in America?
Should you even offer an incoming freshman a deal without any proven success on the collegiate level? Well, you have to because they could go pro or to the G-League in the case of basketball.
5. What to Endorse?
Some of these potential endorsers will be underage. That rules out adult beverages, cigarettes and casinos. But should a 21-year-old senior have those options while representing a college?
You are in great physical shape and your body is a part of your craft, so do you endorse fast food restaurants?
Other factors that will play into picking a product or cause to use your NIL are religion, race, sexual preference and social agenda. Should the NCAA have some say in the matter?
4. Salary Cap
Even professional sports have a salary cap. But those grown individuals can make as much money as possible on the open market. But with college athletes, their window at that corporation (the school) has a limited window. So do these universities and colleges remove those scholarships and allow the player to pay for their own school as long as they want to go there and perform in athletics?
Will there need to be a cutoff. And will the NCAA extend eligibility for athlete/students so they can continue to make money with their member schools. And will the athlete allow them a cut or forgo the scholarship and pay to attend?
Think of Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan. The Chicago Bulls’ one-two punch back in the 1990s winning six NBA titles. Jordan was clearly the man on those teams. But there were no championships without the greatness of Pippen. Let’s take that scenario to a college team in the future. Guy A is the face of the franchis…. I mean team. But all the players and coaches know Guy B is the heart and soul of the squad.
Should he get a bump in pay? Or will he leave the team because all the businesses in the community are giving Guy A too much of the credit by increasing his credit score? Jealousy will break up a lot of college teams because these players are not quite mature enough to handle the financial whirlpool.
2. Women’s Sports
Usually men are rewarded for performance in sports. They will draw in revenue and receive attention for the numbers posted on the court, field or diamond. But a woman can be receiving endorsements simply for her looks. I have two words for you… “Anna Kournikova.”
It’s already happening. Have you ever heard of the Cavinder twins? I didn’t either until they inked a NIL deal to represent Boost Mobile and Six Star. Hanna and Haley are basketball players at Fresno State. When was the last time FSU Basketball was a mover and shaker in women’s college basketball? How many who just read that thought of Florida State?
Get ready to see a bunch of pretty faces get deals. While successful female athletes start to argue that their male counterparts are getting paid more. It will be the market of demand, but complaining will be in full supply.
Who are you playing for?
Is it for your college? Will it be for your endorser? Can that endorser convince you to drop a game? Or make sure the spread isn’t covered?
If money is the driving force for all involved in this as of now, integrity will soon be gone from college sports. It was holding on by a thin piece of fiber for decades.
But the love of money is the root of all evil. I pray in our major college sports we will have a majority of athlete/students who don’t LOVE money.
THOMAS SELLERS JR. is the editor of The Millington Star and both the sports editor and a weekly personal columnist for West 10 Media/Magic Valley Publishing. Contact him by phone at (901) 433-9138, by fax to (901) 529-7687 and by email to email@example.com.