UNDER CONSIDERATION – Do it either/or: scholarship or NIL $$
Should student-athletes be paid to play at the university they choose to attend?
Some people think so, but most say no.
Should they be compensated for using their name, image or likeness (NIL) in promoting their team, the conference of which their school is a member, or any commercial entity that wishes to identify them with its products or services?
Now that’s another story.
I read recently that the University of Kentucky quarterback – a football player, not one of John Calipari’s basketball stars – will earn something like $800,000 from NIL endorsements during his last season in Lexington! (And then he could be a first-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.)
There are dozens and dozens of other examples, and wealthy alumni in many places have formed “cooperatives” to arrange big salaries for top recruits.
You may have noticed the rancor generated by Alabama’s Nick Saban on “National Signing Day” a few months ago, when intercollegiate football programs across the country announced their recruiting classes.
Saban accused Texas A&M and coach Jimbo Fisher – a former Saban assistant, no less – of “buying” the best recruiting class in the country. Fisher, of course, was furious at such an accusation.
Quickly, Saban attempted to clarify his remarks, pointing out that intercollegiate athletics – primarily football – must limit NIL compensation with sensible rules that prevent the chaotic environment that prevails today.
“What I’m saying is it’s not good for the game and it’s only going to get worse unless there’s federal legislation,” Saban said.
The most important point is that universities, including Alabama, can now (and do) include the prospect (and in many cases the certainty) of ZERO income whenever a given athlete decides to attend. this particular school. And it will continue, and grow, until more structure is in place.
I’ve heard all the arguments for college student-athletes who benefit from participating before turning professional. And at first glance, they make some sense, at least in a vacuum.
Yes, many universities make a lot of money from attracting elite players, primarily from television rights, but also from ticket sales and other ancillary sources. So why wouldn’t they share the riches?
Yes, these revenues would be considerably less without these stars.
And yes, the success of these athletes and their teams helps universities attract new students.
And yes, there is a measurable equation between athletic success and alumni support.
But the other side of the coin is all those sports that cannot be self-financing, and all those athletes, women and men, whose performances do not generate income.
Universities are counting on money from these sports with future pros to pay all those athletes who, as the TV commercial puts it, “will go pro in something other than (their college sport)”.
So what’s the answer? Here’s a thought:
Not allow any university to award a scholarship to a student-athlete compensated for the use of his name, image or likeness.
If a player is NIL-minus to begin with, they receive and keep their purse until this is no longer the case.
The logic here is that any student-athlete raking in the thousands (or hundreds of thousands) can afford tuition, room and board. (Hardly any graduated before turning pro, anyway.)
This only works, of course, if ALL college programs are required to follow the rule. (If they all lived up to that standard, the hiring conditions would be as fair as possible. And the programs would reduce their running costs a little.)
Of course, the biggest and baddest programs – Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan, etc. in football, and Kentucky, Kansas, Duke, etc. in basketball – will likely, almost certainly, be able to offer more attractive NIL deals than programs trying to compete. . But these aspirants have always been at a disadvantage.
What about football and basketball players who have little or no hope of making money?
Well, they can still charge for their college education. And if they’re surprisingly good, they might still end up playing at the top level after college. Otherwise, “they go pro” in something else.
Meanwhile, the “have-nots” can field football and basketball teams that resemble intercollegiate athletics as it has existed for most of the last century: true amateurs, competing for love of the game and to bring honor to their school.
And non-paying sports remain viable.
Denny Dressman is a 43-year veteran in the newspaper business, including 25 at Rocky Mountain News, where he started as an executive sportswriter. He is the author of 14 books, eight of which are sports related. You can email Denny at [email protected]