Shane McMahon uses the Naughty by Nature song “Here Comes the Money” as his WWE entrance theme, and, well, his enthusiastic dance to it does fit how it feels to see the NCAA finally coming to terms with the fact that it cannot grab every last dollar associated with college sports.
In an interview with The New York Times, the NCAA’s beleaguered president acknowledged what’s been clear for quite some time, that with name-image-and-likeness laws set to go into effect on July 1 in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, and New Mexico, the NCAA is going to have to make new rules of its own to allow athletes to ink endorsement deals.
More states are lining up to get similar laws on the books, so the NCAA isn’t doing something righteous here. It’s really about making sure that schools in states with NIL legislation on the books don’t get a huge advantage in recruiting over schools in states where the law hasn’t yet been changed to allow college athletes to cash in.
Emmert and the NCAA also know that if they come up with a satisfactory across-the-board policy, they might — might — be able to avoid Congress stepping in with federal legislation that could be more player-friendly than what the NCAA wants. The NCAA pondering a change is not out of the goodness of its heart, because the NCAA does not have a heart.
The Times hits on that exact idea with this passage: “The question of whether and how student-athletes should be able to make money has long simmered, particularly as many coaches draw seven-figure salaries, universities erected eye-popping athletic buildings and television rights deals brought in billions of dollars.”
A star basketball player at Duke being able to get an endorsement from Durham Doug’s Dungarees Depot isn’t going to hurt the school, and a continued ban on hiring agents would ensure that athletes would be poorly served in making such deals. It’s not nothing for college athletes to finally gain their own NIL rights, but it’s still crumbs compared to those seven-figure coach salaries and billions from TV deals.
After the way things went in arguments at the Supreme Court in March, the NCAA can feel the walls closing in on its eternal racket. Changing institutional NIL regulations is just the NCAA trying to get the government off its back in a last-ditch effort to preserve a system where everyone gets money out of college sports except for the people who actually play the college sports.
“We need a system that is fair to all of our student-athletes and protects the scholarships of student-athletes in both the revenue and Olympic sports and does not do anything to destroy the collegiate model that basically has provided life-changing educational opportunities to so many individuals, including my father, my brother, myself, my son,” Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren told The Times.
Don’t think for a second that such a system can’t spread some university money to athletes, and especially don’t believe that bunk from the mouth of a man who runs a league where the lowest-paid football coach, Mike Locksley of Maryland, makes nearly two and a half million dollars a year.
South Carolina paid Will Muschamp $12.9 million last year to go away. Surely, that university and others can afford to throw a few dollars to the people who actually do the sports.
Emmert doesn’t have an answer for that, because NIL is just the tip of the iceberg of cash in college sports. The NCAA will only give where it absolutely has to, and now it’s in a place where it absolutely has to.