Respect Amateurism/Title IX, but Allow Student-Athletes to Profit from their Likeness

Aaron Marks Host, The Drive 6-9 a.m. M-F Sports Radio 100.3 The Team

Aaron Marks
Host, The Drive
6-9 a.m. M-F
Sports Radio 100.3 The Team

It’s no secret at this point. College athletics is big business and the question continues to bring water coolers to boiling points around the country: Should NCAA Athletes be paid?

My answer: No, but Yes.

It’s really simple, actually. I respect amateurism and I think it can be preserved in the college game. We can’t just outright pay the athletes for playing a game. They are already paid. Scholarship values when you include the training, medical availability with trainers and top notch facilities for rehab, and food/travel benefits provided already exceed over $50,000 per year in some circumstances. If you need to know the value in a college education just look up the statistics and financial benefit for individuals who have a college degree versus those who do not.

I also respect title IX and equal opportunities for all athletes, male and female. Under Title IX it essentially says that if we’re going to pay the football players, we must also pay the volleyball players, track and field athletes, and everyone else. If that payment is required to all student athletes then the department athletic budget would be obliterated. Stop looking only at the Universities of Alabama and Texas operating budgets. They are the exception to the norm.

I do not believe pay for play should ever exist in college athletics. If you want to be paid right out of high school you have that option. In baseball you can go directly to the league and toil in the minors for a few years. In basketball you can go to the NBDL. And in football you can go to Canada or Europe. But then you think for a moment and realize those leagues will give you no publicity or marketing. All of the sudden that full ride to Michigan State looks like the lottery compared to the $300 a week you would generate in a minor league ball club while sharing a two bedroom apartment with four dudes. And the microwavable lunch bowl of Ramen Noodles doesn’t seem to compare to the pre-game meal being served at Alabama.

You get my point. NCAA athletics provides the athletes with plenty. It provides the best coaching, training, and life mentoring, and puts the athletes who do want to go pro in the best position of marketability to succeed and become a top tier pick. And for the majority who don’t go pro, there’s that whole college education thing being provided.

With all that being said however, the NCAA is missing the boat on something. The NCAA does have athletes who can command a pay check for the millions of dollars they help bring in to the Universities. And there’s a way to pay those individuals without messing with amateurism, title XI or screwing up the operating budget. It’s called your ‘likeness’ and players should be allowed to profit from it. Everyone should be allowed to profit from their name, image, or signature. A judge in the Ed O’Bannon trial said so two months ago. Commons sense says I, you, your kids, anyone you know should profit from who they are if the opportunity is presented. Yet Todd Gurley at Georgia is still getting in to trouble for doing so.

I don’t understand why the NCAA can’t adopt the Olympic Athlete model. Olympians are Amateurs but the most popular ones can utilize the popularity of their likeness to garner thousands, and for the rare few, millions of dollars.

The idea that the Universities can sell a player’s jersey and profit from the likeness that is their number but the student-athlete cannot get paid for an autograph or sign an endorsement deal is absurd. Anybody notice that #3 is no longer available at Georgia on NCAA.com today?

Notice I have no issue with the University selling the jersey. Sell it all day and keep the money. Just let the student-athlete also take advantage of something he or she created which is a desire for fans to associate with that individual.

I’d like to see the NCAA develop agents who specialize in this sort of thing. They have to go through a recertification every year or two and there will be strict rules to abide by. Failure to follow those rules would penalize the agents meaning only the ones going about this the right way would be involved.

These agents can set up an extremely limited number of autograph signings, meet and greets, and anything else these athletes may be able to profit from that lines up with their schedule. More importantly, these agents can barter marketing deals with companies. There would be limitations but only to increase opportunities for more student-athletes. Plus the agents would only have access to specific Universities athletes. No high school. No working across the nation. Have the University hire them. They can afford that in their budget and it could also be on a commission structure just like other agents.

Who do I include in these companies that market these student-athletes? The Universities and the Conferences. If a University wants to highlight a player for the purpose of selling tickets, there would be a payment made. That payment would be held until graduation and receipt of a degree. Don’t want the degree and want to go pro early? You forfeit the payment and it goes back into the Universities scholarship fund.

This isn’t hard. Respect the amateurism and respect title IX. But if a student-athlete can profit from his or her likeness, it’s simply wrong to not allow it.

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