Photo: Sean M. Haffey (Getty Images)

Former UCLA standout and current Arizona Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen is part of a group that has announced its plan to offer an alternative to the NCAA’s current system of unpaid athlete labor. In its place, the group calls for the creation of a clearinghouse to play middleman, and for athletes to receive compensation when they receive their degree. Lawyer Tye Gonser, law student Bryan Bitzer, and Rosen first released their report to Yahoo’s Pat Forde; the full 40-page document can be read at the bottom of this post.

Rosen, recently selected with the 10th overall pick in the NFL Draft, has long been a loud and refreshingly persistent voice railing against the NCAA and its amateurism system. Sometime within the past year, Rosen sat down with Gonser, a partner at a Southern California business law firm, and Bitzer, a USC law student; together, they concocted a system that would allow athletes to be paid, eventually.

The plan can be viewed as a bit of a half-measure, with the due acknowledgement that it is indeed a step of progress when compared to the present system. In their imagined world of college athletics, athletes would continue to give up their ability to make money for their skills while in college, with their compensation only paid out upon graduation. Until then, they would not be allowed to contact any of the companies that fuel their payments, like those in the shoe, apparel, or video game industries. Instead, an independent non-profit clearinghouse would operate as representation for the athletes, negotiating individual and group deals. Here’s a chart to make it easy:

The key innovation here is the formation of the clearinghouse. The institution would basically be doing what an agent could do for the athletes, only everyone has the same agent in this scenario. It would be operated by a board and a CEO, with four committees, made up of appointees from the board, the NCAA, and a variety of college athletics groups.

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And while the middleman is a non-profit entity here, it takes its cut out of those NCAA Football and jersey sales profits, just like an agent. So too would the NCAA, as well as other athletes and university students. Here’s how the payouts from the licensing deals would break down:

Like any NCAA-run operation, there are plenty of rules in place, too. Athletes would have their money snatched away if the NCAA makes them permanently ineligible, or if they commit a number of violent crimes or get popped with an illegal gun or get hit with charges like racketeering.

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The most important stipulation, however, is that an athlete will not be paid if they fail to graduate. This is, of course, an attempt at tying the college academic experience to the college athletic experience in hopes of appeasing the NCAA with just enough of a financial power imbalance to get their co-sign. In this form, the rule veils itself as an incentive, when in fact it would hurt the one group that produces the vast majority of revenue NCAA coaches and athletic directors have been building lake houses with for decades—black male athletes. A 2018 USC study revealed that among Power Five schools, 55 percent of black male athletes graduated within six years; compare that to 69 percent of all college athletes and 76.3 percent of all undergraduate students.

If an athlete is forced to forfeit their money, the cash will be placed in a “General Scholarship Fund,” which will then spend it on scholarships for non-athletes and “additional community programs,” as determined by the clearinghouse.

You can read Rosen, Bitzer, and Gosner’s full report below. It’s an interesting attempt to solve the inequalities baked into the NCAA’s cartel—as noted, it’s not perfect and cedes too much ground and cash to the NCAA and the clearinghouse, but that it exists on paper after being partially dreamt up by a former star Power Five quarterback does provide a bit of hope for future college athlete rights.

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