by Nicholas Cicale (@nickcicale)
With the Johnny Manziel autograph controversy of the summer coming to an almost comical resolution (he’ll be suspended for the first half of the season… opener, even though the NCAA determined he didn’t get paid for signing autographs) on the eve of the college football season, I thought now would be as good a time as ever to write my opinions on money in college sports.
Topic 1: College athletes shouldn’t be paid to play.
My thinking is that non-athletic students don’t get paid to go to college, so why should student athletes be treated any differently? Although sports fans don’t always think of it in this way, athletes are technically going to school to hone their craft, get a degree, and get ready for their future profession like the rest of a school’s students. It doesn’t matter to me that some of them won’t get into the big leagues or be drafted right out of school, because there are a lot of student who don’t have jobs out of college and have to work outside of their desired professions for an extended time.
Student athletes get scholarships to attend school, which already gives them a huge advantage compared to other students who have to take out loans, and work part time while studying. Now if a school wants to give its players a larger scholarship so they have more flexibility with their money I would be ok with that, as long as it was increased by an even percentage across the athletic system.
My problem with paying college athletes a per game or season long salary is that It very obviously affects recruiting. If the power house schools didn’t have enough power, there would be no stopping a school with more money offering everything to a top recruit, making it impossible for smaller schools to compete at all. Plus, I don’t see colleges paying all their athletes money, just the top ones, and that isn’t fair at all.
Topic 2: College athletes should be paid for their name.
This seems like a no brainer to me, and the only reason not to allow it that I can come up with is the NCAA is greedy (mind blown) and doesn’t want to share any of it’s money. If a player’s name or image appears on something that is sold by the school or an outside outlet, the player should get a portion of the profits.
The problem that critics come up with is there are usually only 2 or 3 top athletes at every university that get recognition, so these would be the ones that profit from the rule, leaving everyone else right where they are now. My simple solution? A portion of all school memorabilia sales are split between all of the athletes, no matter who’s name appears on the back. I don’t know if a school would give all football sales to football players, baseball sales to baseball players, or get a collective pot and divide it between all athletes across the campus, but either approach would give athletes a portion of the brand they are helping create.
As far as selling autographed memorabilia, I think a student should be able to profit off signing something as long as it is sold by the school, or through a school-approved vendor. This would ensure that the items were authentic and that the right parties are paid. There’s something about signing 1000 balls and then selling them yourself on EBay or Amazon that just sounds shady to me. It’s just in bad taste to me and shows that someone has no pride, although in all honesty it’s probably not fair to say a student couldn’t do that if they chose to.
Topic 3: College athletes should be able to get endorsements.
It isn’t the NCAA’s responsibility or right to prevent players from signing their own personal endorsement deals. It’s a personal choice, and if a company is willing to pay why not, unless the player is somehow under the age of 17.
I could understand if the University or NCAA wanted to have say in approving endorsements to make sure they don’t hurt the league’s image in any way, or conflict with preexisting deals for the school, but other than that it should be the player’s decision.
One idea I have is creating an endorsement scale, where an athlete has a max contract they can sign that expires once they leave college. The contract can include a percentage of the earnings that go to the NCAA and the player’s school, especially if they use the school’s colors or memorabilia in the promotion. It could be seen as a finders fee or a tax. That way the player has the opportunity to make his money, and the NCAA doesn’t feel like they’re being ripped off.
Topic 4. College athletes should be allowed to work while attending school.
This is really straightforward. If an athlete wants to work somewhere in order to make some money, I say let them. As long as it doesn’t get in the way of their schoolwork or athletic schedule I don’t have a problem with it.
Topic 5. Universities shouldn’t be punished for having an athlete break the rules.
Unless of course it was found that the school was somehow facilitating or covering up the illegal activity, there’s no reason to punish a school when they did nothing wrong. It’s the NCAA’s responsibility to suspend players that break league rules, and to make a player ineligible.
What irritates me is that under current rules, had Johnny Manziel been found guilty some time later in the season and Texas A&M had used him at any point during the investigation, the school would have instantly been considered ineligible for the year. It isn’t the schools fault that the league didn’t rule Manziel ineligible, and they shouldn’t be punished for using an eligible player. The league may wishes they could retroact the suspension to when the investigation began, but to expect a school would bench their best player because there was a chance they did something wrong is ridiculous.