The Confidential

The ACC Sports Blog

The NCAA Needs a Wake-Up Call: People Want Change

Look, the Confidential understands the idealism behind the NCAA.  It wants as much of a level playing field as possible, without the risk of $100 bills passing with handshakes between school benefactors and student athletes.  But the times have changed.  You have star athletes mysteriously driving SUVs that are titled in the names of relatives that could not possibly afford same.  The stakes of college athletics have never been higher.  But those aren’t the reasons that the NCAA needs a wake-up call.  It needs to look in the mirror for why it needs to change.

The Big 10 just started a horrible period in college sports with its decision to self-monetize with the Big 10 Network.  While an understandable challenge to ESPN’s sorta-monopoly at the time, the Big 10 Network is these same amateur idealists making millions of dollars off the athletic pursuits of its unpaid labor.  In 1964, the schools probably did OK relative to profiting off of sports.  In 2014, the schools are generating far too much revenue to rely solely on the tuition/room/board compensation of its players.

The end result is that people–sports fans and others–simply no longer accept that the student-athletes receive NO compensation and are punished for trivial levels of compensation.  Heisman Trophy candidate Todd Gurley was the latest casualty, earning a suspension for accepting $400.00.  You may remember  $400.00 as a huge sum from your college days.  You may recognize the number as .000125 of Georgia coach Mark Richt’s salary.  The sport is the same.  The adults make plenty of money.  The student-athletes cannot even make trivial sums of money relative to what the adults earn.

This is not to suggest that the NCAA should restructure itself as a complete minor league, with salaries for players.  But is it that hard to figure out a way for the players to share in the revenue that THEY bring to the table.  Todd Gurley’s signature today is worth something.  Not just because he wears the Georgia jersey, but because of what he does while wearing that jersey.  To deny him $400.00 or penalize him for accepting same is a fair application of the silly rules, but also flies in the face of capitalism and fair dealing.  It should change.

Sadly, the best way to make it change is a disturbing way.  The NCAA should get involved with the memorabilia side of things–allowing the student-athletes to share in the revenue generated by their signatures and jerseys.  Instead of selling a Georgia #3 jersey, also sell a #3 jersey with his name on it and require Georgia to pay him a set percentage of the licensing revenue generated from same.  If the jersey with his name does well, good for him.  IF the jersey without his name does better, well… he just falls short of the prior wearers of that jersey/number.  But there would be no denying him his fair share.

As for the autographs, again… revenue could be allowed based on NCAA-sponsored sales of same.  Instead of the seedy backdoor deals regarding autographs, allow each player the ability to sell/auction–through an approved channel–250 signed items per month on a commission basis.  If people want them, they can have them.  If people do not want them, no harm.  Instead of a lump sum for the arrangement, allow the player a no-risk participation in capitalizing on his name.

Teams and units could even sell an additional 250 units.  So Gurley could have 250 of his own items, and then have 50 more items with the first-team offense… 100 with the complete offense… and 100 with the RBs only… making some money for his teammates in the process.

Sure, there will be old-timers who insist that the tuition/room/board is plenty compensation.  It once was.  Today, however, a college degree is better than not having one, but it is not a true guarantee of financial or professional success.  Things are too competitive.  Moreover, the tuition/room/board now pales in comparison to the revenue that the athletes generate.

The Confidential believes that the NCAA and its member institutions cannot have it both ways.  If the schools are going to act like businesses, they should be taxed like businesses.  If the schools are going to act like profit centers, then they need to share some of that revenue with the student-athletes that generate it each week with sweat and hard work.  Even more, the Confidential believes that a lot of fans now agree with those ideals.  Fairness now trumps amateurism.  Let’s hope the NCAA wakes up so that its fans can continue to enjoy a great product, without the accompanying guilt of knowing that the student-athletes are not getting a fair shake with respect to creating that product.

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2 thoughts on “The NCAA Needs a Wake-Up Call: People Want Change

  1. Excellent points – especially about the school sharing revenue generated from the sale of jerseys. It is the height of hypocrisy when Georgia removed #3 jerseys for sale from their website, and an admission that they are profiting off the likeness of the players.

    Where things get murky, however, is that the sale of these items cannot be regulated. So, you run the risk that a wealthy booster could agree to purchase a large quantity of jerseys for a particular recruit if they choose that school. Of course, the NCAA/school would love it as it means more revenue for them…

    I also agree that the schools need to pay taxes on their athletic department’s profits…which is pretty lenient (as opposed to paying taxes on all revenue). I’m sure that with clever accounting practices, even the most profitable athletic department can show they are running a deficit (namely by allocating more money to coaches, new facilities, and non-revenue generating sports) but at least there is some accountability for that money…especially if that money is reinvested elsewhere on campus.

    As it relates to Gurley and Pryor, and others who have tried to cash-in on their memorabilia. My question is this: can students/athletes that receive full-ride scholarships take out student loans as well?

    Let’s not discount the idea that the ability to get through 4+ years of school and exit without student loan debt is fantastic. The vast majority of athletes are not going to make it to the pros, so being able to enter the workforce and be relatively debt free gives is a great deal.

    Ten years ago, my undergrad loans for 5 years of school (including 1 semester abroad) were about $30k…and would have been more if I had not lived off-campus for 3.5 years.

    So, let’s say that a typical student has the borrowing capacity of $60k ($15k per year). If a student/athlete can borrow that amount of money in subsidized loans, and receive a full-ride scholarship, they are effectively getting $15k in revenue – tax free.

    I understand that $15k may not seem like a lot to a college kid, especially if they want luxury items like SUVs, expensive headphones, watches, etc… but to most, getting $250/week would probably go a long way and avoid the need to sell autographs. Hell, there are families of 4 that live off less than that.

    If you make it to the pros, then a $60k loan gets paid off quickly & easily. Even if you don’t go pro and have to fall back upon your degree, then $60k in loans is not such a huge mountain of debt that you’ll never get out from underneath, you’ll just be like all the other kids that graduated from your class.

  2. I don’t completely disagree, and generally think changes are needed, I do have one bone to pick with “pay the poor athletes wagon.” Considering the state of student loans in this country it bothers me that so much time is spend worrying about “poor” athletes who get most if not all of their education paid for, along with a place to sleep. Even much of their food is taken care of… that is not mentioning all of the other things athletes get. It is very hard for me to care much about this issue when so many students have to owe money to get the same education.

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