This article was published by Amiri Tulloch on April 29, 2014 to Route4Sports.com, titled ‘The Easiest Way to Pay College Athletes’.
Most people will agree that the time has come for NCAA athletes to be reimbursed for their athletic production. The big disagreement – to this point – has been how to do so.
The easiest way, however, to fix the NCAA’s obvious dilemma is to allow players to make money off of their own likeness. That means autographs, jerseys, endorsements, camps, and anything else in which players can market themselves and gain monetary-wise.
Before the 2013 college football season, Johnny Manziel was in hot water for – supposedly – signing autographs and selling them. Did Manziel break a rule? Yes, he did. But, what kind of rule penalizes players for taking advantage of their individual skills? What kind of rule robs players of their own image? What kind of rule forces athletes to see their name sold for millions each year – without getting a penny themselves?
I agree that players shouldn’t be given a fixed salary. I agree that it shouldn’t be similar to free agency, where universities can bid on high-school athletes. But I have to draw the line when it comes to the NCAA restricting players from making money off of their own image – that, my friends, is outlandish.
If Johnny Manziel is good enough to have people buy his autograph, he should be allowed to sell it – and make money. If Jabari Parker is good enough to land an endorsement deal with Nike in college, he should be allowed to sign that contract – and make money. If the third-string quarterback on Alabama is popular enough to run a spring football camp in his home state, he should be allowed to do that – and make money. If a D3 golfer is popular enough to have people wanting his autograph, he should be allowed to sell it to them – and make money.
After all, doesn’t it seem slightly hypocritical of the NCAA that Shabazz Napier can walk into a Connecticut sports store, see a jersey with his name on the back, and watch someone buy it? If the NCAA really is concerned about players not having the ability to represent their own image, they would only sell apparel with team names and logos – no individual products.
Yes, I understand that there are kinks in this system. It’s obvious that the D3 golfer won’t make anywhere near the amount of money as Johnny Manziel would if they both were signing autographs side-by-side. It’s clear that only the top-flight athletes would sign deals with Nike and Adidas – I totally understand. But if you are good enough to make money off of what you do, than it seems stupid not to give those athletes the green light to do so.
Then there is the “amateur” issue. In response to questions about not allowing athletes to gain money, the NCAA’s number one rebuke has been, is, and will always be that the players are “student-athletes” and “amateurs,” not “professionals.”
Actually, I agree with the NCAA there – I stand by the amateur-factor. If players started receiving a fixed salary from the NCAA, wouldn’t it just be a minor-league association with free education on the side? I think it’s important to differentiate the pros from the non-pros. The beautiful thing, however, about allowing athletes to make money off their own image is that the NCAA wouldn’t be paying the athletes directly for their athletic production – so the players would still stay “amateurs.”
Here’s what I mean: If the NCAA assigned salaries to college players, it means that the NCAA would be paying those athletes for their athletic production, which is equivalent to giving them a professional contract with monthly paychecks. But, if the NCAA allowed players to make money off of themselves, it would mean that they (the players) were making money directly from the fans. In other words, when fans pay for a player’s autographs, merchandise, and camps, that money would be going straight to the player – a totally different system than the NCAA paying the athletes directly. Under my proposed system, the amount of money a player would make depends on how much fans are willing to spend to represent and be associated with that player (i.e. jerseys, shoes, commercial products, etc.). This format still provides players with income, but is different from receiving a monthly salary for their production.
Let’s use Jabari Parker as the guinea pig. With a monthly income from the NCAA, Parker would receive, for example, $5,000 a month via a predetermined yearly salary based on his basketball production.
But, if he was allowed to make money off of himself, Parker would receive, for example, $200 an autograph, $500 a camp, $700 for a speaking session, and even more for an endorsement deal. Parker would still receive a steady income, but his money wouldn’t be a fixed salary from the NCAA (like other employees). He’d get his income based on how much his personal image is worth.
The rates would fluctuate depending on the athlete. As mentioned previously, Parker and Manziel would make more than a D3 golfer or a third-string quarterback. But, the biggest key in this system is that players would be allowed to make money off themselves – something that was nonexistent before.
Let’s be honest here: the NCAA is basically robbing these players of any individual representation. The players can do little-to-nothing to promote themselves, and they can’t make money off of the public’s interest in them. But if you allow players to sign autographs and ink endorsement deals, then you are letting them garner income in the easiest way possible: off of their own likeness.
Done. Problem solved.
Written by Amiri Tulloch. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Call: 201-699-8098.