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An argument for players licensing their image

What would California’s new bill actually mean for college sports?

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The NCAA has been on the defensive since California has passed a bill allowing players to profit off their names and likenesses. And pundits and former players around the country have been weighing in on what this means for the amateur model in college athletics.

Hypothetical

One common argument against this for now is if the NCAA does not adjust nationally and California continues to participate in the organization, the California schools will have a massive recruiting advantage. Which is true, so for the sake of this exercise I will use a hypothetical of this bill causing a national rule change.

What happens in that scenario? Is the dire prediction of the end of amateur sports at hand? Below I will break out the three major reasons I think such a rule change would significantly improve the NCAA system. It doesn’t address all the problems, but it addresses the first set of issues.

Title IX and budgeting makes this solution the most realistic solution for right now

If you are a big fan of women’s athletics, or a sport outside the big three of men’s athletics, you might not like this section. Here is the truth, these sports across the board struggle to stay in the black with the vast majority sinking below water.

Women’s basketball is one the few programs on the women’s side that even has a chance and only a few programs have managed to stay positive. Football, and to an extent basketball, allow for universities to cover the expenses of their other athletic programs.

But say you want to pay football players or basketball players their fair share of the revenue, those sports could probably afford the cost of an actual salary out of their revenue. But, you will likely immediately run into a legal challenge. Due to Title IX, the argument can be made paying any team means paying all of them. The losses most programs already take would increase, and it is likely that only the Power Five could absorb the millions a year this would require.

Most universities will fight to avoid footing the bill at all costs. With the cost of coaches and facilities not going down any time soon, a salary burden is a damn near impossible sell for say Appalachian State which does not bring in top dollar revenue.

The financial burden is way too high for all but a few athletic programs to take on without significant heart ache. We can argue the NCAA should foot the bill as much as we want, but that is a pipe dream for the moment. Realistically this means we need to find a way to pay the stars generating the revenue without the universities footing the bill.

I agree in the future you would like to see the NCAA shell out the millions this would take to make happen, but one step at a time.

Just allowing players to go pro does not address the issue

Some have argued the fix is to just allow the top talents to go pro in any sport out of high school as baseball currently does. I agree this should happen, but only 1% of college athletes, outside of baseball where more can be ready for the minors early, are pro ready out of high school.

While Zion would have been a pro last year someone like Culver, who made millions for Tech, would not have been. Changing the draft rules is a start, but it ignores that even with lesser talent college fans will still watch in droves thus generating revenue for schools.

And with regards to the king, football, there are essentially no college kids who can go pro until after 2 years of college training. A draft rules adjustment does not even address the biggest source of revenue disparity between an athlete’s efforts and the money the university makes off them.

Allowing players to use their likenesses and names to profit does not dramatically impact recruiting

Ah yes, my favorite doom and gloom argument: IF WE PAY THEM ALABAMA IS GONNA GET ALL THE BEST RECRUITS AHHHHHH!!!!!! Well, news flash the top programs with all the money already do get all the best recruits. Schools like Oregon with natural connections to major companies besides just contractual agreements seem to have an advantage, but Nike and other companies are going to want to sell product so they will give deals to athletes who can do that wherever they go.

Is Texas Tech going to recruit as well as Alabama suddenly? No, because they have deep pocket boosters to keep the playing field equal. Some are worried local businesses would shell out top capital to bring in recruits creating a bidding war, but who cares? Boosters already do that at least now we can monitor it.

The boosters that already allowed Kansas to bring in top basketball recruits won’t spend less money to do it after the change is made. The pay disparity already exists, we just don’t actually get to see it. And say you do the rational thing and regulate this new transaction, if you limited how much the upper-end deals could bring in you could eliminate this problem outright.

Nike would have paid Zion millions in college. But say you cap it at 500 thousand in cumulative deals. Boosters can still shell out additional under the table money, but now a star is going to make enough money he doesn’t have to look for the highest bidder to support his family. The best recruits will get a deal no matter what, so they can actually make decisions for coaching and fit reasons.

With this change, you can avoid having to pay all your athletes money universities don’t really have, and money the NCAA won’t fork over. It allows the top players to cash in on their lucrative images without a level of unfairness for the other sports or players.

Yes, the sports world is unfair for women. But this bill doesn’t make that worse. In fact at places like UCONN or Baylor or Stanford, women’s basketball players are big enough names to land their own deals. And women’s track is a place for these kinds of deals to flow in.

In summation

This bill is a welcome adjustment that protects the existing system and takes some of the shadiness out of athletics all without creating any unfairness that didn’t already exist. This isn’t rocket science, this is the wave of the future if the NCAA likes it or not. Maybe the next step is designing a model to allow fair compensation for all athletes, not just the ones who can get a deal but for now this is an excellent solution.