Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

If New Rules Weaken NCAA Control Over Athletes, That’s A Good Thing

Illustration for article titled If New Rules Weaken NCAA Control Over Athletes, That’s A Good Thing
Photo: AP

In this time of big companies grabbing up small-business loans — or fucking over their employees to the point of death, news of the NCAA lurching toward the right thing, if belatedly and clumsily, is still something of a shock. It’s what happens when the bar is so low. “The NCAA: The butter is under our face.”

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On Wednesday, the NCAA announced that it supports rules changes to allow student-athletes to receive compensation for third-party endorsements both related and separate from athletics. A working group created by the NCAA Board of Governors presented recommendations for how athletes can monetize their image and name while still maintaining their “amateur” label, i.e., not horning in too much on the NCAA’s action.

The timing of this isn’t too surprising considering the growing trend of top college basketball prospects deciding to take their financial futures into their own hands by playing professionally overseas or taking a half a million dollar salaries in the G-League, the need for the NCAA to act has never been more pressing.

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It’s a move that will undoubtedly benefit the NCAA by easing the pressure of progressive state legislators that were implementing “Fair Pay to Play Acts” while simultaneously making the organization more attractive to young high school prospects looking to take control of their financial futures.

Dan Murphy has the full list of the group’s recommendations in that ESPN post, but the long and short of it:

  • Athletes can do ads and make apparel deals, but can’t use their school’s name or logo in the marketing.
  • Athletes can’t work with companies or products that conflict with NCAA regulations or school’s values (gambling sites, for instance).
  • Athletes can hire an agent to help with finding endorsements — but the agent cannot communicate with professional teams.
  • Athletes would have to disclose all of their earnings to both their school and the NCAA.

However, the thing that people keep forgetting is that the rest of collegiate sports haven’t even caught up with college basketball. Back in August of 2018, the NCAA’s Board of Governors and Division I Board of Directors announced some changes in the wake of the FBI’s investigation into the sport, and it involved agents.

It gave elite high school basketball players the right to be represented by an agent as early as the summer before their senior year in high school. It also allowed college basketball players to be represented by agents after any basketball season if they requested an evaluation from the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee. With that came the allowance of agents being able to legally pay for meals, lodging, and transportation for players and their families if all the expenses “were related to the agent selection process.”

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Wednesday’s announcement gets a little funny a little later on the suggestion of a discussion. And boy, you can tell this is a bureaucracy of the highest order when there’s a suggestion of discussion about an independent board to set what is in line with market value and whether these would be used to spice up recruiting.

After all, the quarterback at Alabama is a bigger deal in Tuscaloosa than one at Miami. Deciding what’s fair market value for endorsements or commercials shouldn’t be up to the NCAA or a third-party service. That’s a position that many have brought up in the past, and what former Wisconsin Badger Nigel Hayes voiced publicly. If a local restaurant in Baton Rouge wants to cough up $50K to get the star running back’s name on their ad, that’s between them. Sure, it’s probably more than a comparable player would get in say, Pullman, Was., but that’s life. It’s not like going to LSU over Washington State isn’t already a weighted fight.

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It is also likely that the collection of stiff-assed old men who constitute the NCAA hierarchy are completely aware of what athletes can do through social media. After all, the whistling breeze between Olivia Jade’s ears takes in $50K for each post that includes some product. It’s likely that Heisman contenders could find something similar on their Instagram and Twitter.

Will they dub that market value? Needless to say, we’ll need video of these corpses having that discussion whenever it happens for our entertainment.

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These rules would also seem to favor star players, as the second-string right tackle isn’t going to be too sought after to plug the local hardware store. But, again, the second-stringer carries more weight in Athens than at Rutgers. That’s really just about market and marketability. The NCAA will tell you that the backup lineman is the one who really needs the free education.

Certainly, the greater opportunity to market yourself at bigger programs is going to be a recruiting advantage for top-tier sports universities, which hardly need another leg up.

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Boosters will salivate at the idea of legally spreading money to recruits through ads and endorsements before they even set foot on campus. The NCAA can set up any rules it likes, but we know how that’s going to work. This is probably why they want to find cap-levels for this sort of thing. But any rule the NCAA comes up with is just going to start boosters to find a way around them. It’s been this way since the beginning of time.

Advocates for athletes can’t locate a flying or grounded fuck about limits on what players can make on their own. The National College Players Association released a report earlier in the year saying as much. The job pays what it pays, and such.

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All in all, this seems like a half-step. The universities won’t have to pay the athletes out of their own pocket, which they will argue will still allow them to fund the rest of their athletic departments, while really just allowing them to maintain profits. Some college athletes will not have to eat slices of American cheese for dinner and get to cash in some on their names and images that schools have been closing TV and marketing deals on for decades. It’s better than nothing, but probably has some ways to go yet.

Have you ever looked at a dollar bill, man?

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