Opinion: NCAA NIL Legislation May Only Benefit A Few
MORGANTOWN,W.Va. — On the surface, the recent action by the NCAA to allow student-athletes to benefit from their name, likeness and image starting in the 2021-22 academic year, would seem to be a boon to college athletes but it may do so at the expense of college athletics.
The rules changes will allow athletes to be paid for such things as personal appearances, autograph signings, commercial endorsements and social media influencing, previously banned by the group which led to lawsuits that, among other things, led to end of EA Sports’ popular NCAA Football game.
Up front, it appears a means by which athletes, long undervalued in such sports as football and men’s basketball that brought millions upon millions dollars into the NCAA and which led to coaches earning multi-million dollar salaries while players went unpaid and without such items as health insurance and — until recently — some meals, can tilt the balance.
But if one stops to take a closer look, one realizes that just as it is in the professional ranks, only the star players will really benefit from the new rules and that it easily could have a strong effect on recruiting and on widening the gap between the haves and have-nots in college football and basketball.
Some believe the NCAA was willing to make such changes only to protect itself from legal action while giving up nothing in the way of power or incomes.
Donna Shalala (D-FL) is the former president of the Universities of Miami of Florida and Wisconsin and came out as critical of the action.
“The report released today by the NCAA is a public relations document — not a starting point to improve college sports,” the U.S. Representative said in a written statement. “The NCAA has once again demonstrated its ineffectiveness in acting in the best interest of student-athletes. While revenues have skyrocketed, students have continued to lack health insurance, proper safety measures and real academic assistance. The recommendations proposed by the Board of Governors appears to be more about protecting their bottom line rather than ensuring an equal playing field for college athletics.”
Delbert Royce, vice-president and CFO of Blaine Turner Advertising in Morgantown, is not in favor of this change.
“I believe this will only benefit a very, very small percentage of student-athletes. The vast majority would have no appeal to anybody who have monetary gains for them. The ones who would gain are the ones who are outstanding, like the young lady – Ginny Thrasher – who won an Olympic Gold Medal in rifle last Olympics and maybe a couple of basketball or football standouts,” Royce said.
“I don’t know if the market would be that big here, to tell the truth. The football and basketball coaches would have the contracts that would make them valuable because they are here year after year but student-athletes are not.
“Maybe you would get a little bump if you have a great season as a student-athlete, but it wouldn’t be much more than that.”
Neal Brown, the WVU coach, isn’t quite sure what to think about it and its effect on his game, but the school is preparing to deal with the situation, Brown revealing on Wednesday that WVU had signed a contract with an individual to help guide its players through the maze of regulations and what they can and cannot do.
“I’m still learning,” Brown admitted. “You kind of feel momentum growing and I feel that happening. We tried to get in front of that. We partnered with an individual we will announce soon about education, educating our players on that… how to create a brand, what does a brand look like, those type of things. We feel really good about our plan doing that.”
But the effect will be more widespread than just on student-athletes’ earning capacity, whether it be from appearances or ads for car dealers or, if they should be Heisman Trophy candidates, for some kind of national brand (Think O.J. Simpson representing Tropicana).
The major question lingering over this is what affect it will have upon recruiting. Will not the schools such as Michigan, USC, Ohio State, Texas have a large advantage because of earning possibilities over schools like West Virginia, Iowa State, Nebraska and the likes?
“Here you will be a big fish in a little pond,” Royce noted. “At Michigan or a place like that you would be a big fish in a big pond.”
Brown isn’t certain what awaits in recruiting.
“I don’t know what it will do with recruiting. I’m not as educated as I need to be right now on that,” he said.
He does, however, see selling points for prospects to come to West Virginia.
“There’s some potential benefits here in West Virginia because we don’t have any professional teams here and we are the only Power 5 team in the state,” he said. “There’s some things that make our players marketable. Our brand is strong, although I did notice the branding of your school is not allowed in that.”
Indeed, players will not be allowed to use WVU’s logos or other trademarks in their, engagements, although they can identify the school and sport they play. Schools will not be allowed to engage potential advertisers such as alumni who own car dealerships and have them use such deals to entice students-athletes.
Brown, like Royce, sees it benefiting only the top players.
“I don’t think it will be windfall for everybody on our roster or the basketball team,” he said.
Brown also sees potential problems with these changes.
“You don’t know what the parameters are and when you get them, who is going to monitor that?” he said. “Is it the coach? Am I in charge of that? How am I going to monitor it if they have an agent. Just say, I have a lot more questions on it than answers.
“I understand why we went down this path. I do get it. I think it can be beneficial to some extent. I just don’t know how you manage it. I’m just not educated enough on it, but we will be.”
As for Royce, the advertising executive?
“I’m not a fan of it,” he said. “I just don’t think it’s the right way to go about compensating these kids for earning millions of dollars for this school.”