People may change, but the internet lives forever. And in June of 2014, Clemson head football coach Dabo Swinney said one of the dumbest and most hypocritical things in sports history.
“We try to teach our guys, use football to create the opportunities, take advantage of the platform and the brand and the marketing you have available to you. But as far as paying players, professionalizing college athletics, that’s where you lose me. I’ll go do something else, because there’s enough entitlement in this world as it is.”
To make matters even worse, Swinney would go on to sign a 10-year, $92 million deal in April of 2019 to continue to coach those unpaid players he’d quit his job for if they ever got compensated.
It’s time to pack up your office, Dabo. Because name, image, and likeness is here, as college players — especially at Clemson — are about to get paid with Thursday being the first day that every college athlete can profit off NIL.
On Wednesday, the NCAA’s board of directors finally decided to stop being haters, as amateurism is finally dead.
“This is an important day for college athletes since they all are now able to take advantage of name, image and likeness opportunities,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a statement. “With the variety of state laws adopted across the country, we will continue to work with Congress to develop a solution that will provide clarity on a national level. The current environment — both legal and legislative — prevents us from providing a more permanent solution and the level of detail student-athletes deserve.”
Like Swinney, Emmert has been against this from day one. So don’t give them any credit for finally being on the right side of history, as reports are already coming in of players cashing out.
Twin sisters Hanna and Haley Cavinder play basketball for Fresno State and already have a deal with Boost Mobile. Quarterbacks like FSU’s McKenzie Milton and Miami’s D’Eriq King are co-founders of Dreamfield, an initiative that will book events for athletes and set up autograph signings, meet-and-greets, speaking engagements, and other revenue-generating opportunities. And Darren Rovell is reporting that LSU gymnast Olivia Dunne could pull in $1 million.
Back in 2018, former Wisconsin hoops star Nigel Hayes told me how he thought the NCAA could fix their player compensation issues, as he revealed that his 2016-2017 team almost boycotted an early-season matchup against Syracuse as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge that aired on ESPN over the topic.
“I would do away with the term impermissible benefits, and with that term no longer in use, these athletes are now allowed to accept money from any party that would like to give them some. If a booster wants to give them $5,000 because they had a great game, they’re allowed to do that. If a local restaurant wants to give them dinner, they’d be allowed to do that. And by the same token, if they don’t there’s no harm, no foul,” Hayes told me.
“And through the use of that, colleges aren’t looked at to try to finance this because you can no longer say, ‘where’s the money going to come from?’” he explained.
“This has nothing to do with only male sports, or the top two sports being football and men’s basketball,” he continued. “This would benefit everybody and works like this country works with capitalism and market economy. If someone likes you and gets joy from your entertainment, then they’re going to pay you for it. Which is why you’d let athletes make money off their name and likeness.”
The process of letting college athletes make money has always been a simple one that’s been staring us in the face for years as Hayes described. It’s just that people like Dabo Swinney, Mark Emmert, and the powers that be were fine with letting a billion-dollar entity make the majority of their money off the backs of unpaid Black athletes.
However, we aren’t out of the clear just yet. Players still need and deserve more, and a union wouldn’t hurt, either. But, this is a great first start. And since players making money is no longer a crime, it’s time that the Heisman Trust gave Reggie Bush his trophy back, along with those Fab Five banners going back up at the Crisler Center in Ann Arbor.