Like many sports-obsessed kids in school, whenever I had a paper to write in English class, my topic was usually something along the lines of: College players should be compensated.
In my younger years, this was a pretty foolproof idea. I had a genuine interest in the topic, there was plenty of research available to use as the basis of my argument and I felt like it was the right thing to argue for. It was easy for me as a high school kid to understand that there were far too many adults who were profiting off of the athletes in the collegiate system, while those same athletes couldn’t do the same without jeopardizing their eligibility. That is objectively wrong.
I understood that they were receiving scholarships and yes, I concede that a scholarship is a very valuable thing, but it pales into comparison to the giant amounts of money university presidents, ADs and coaches were bringing home in their paychecks. All on the backs of players having to pinch pennies just to exist on the campuses where they generated income and were the talk of the town for their athletic ability. That too, seemed objectively wrong.
A Different Landscape
Fast forward almost ten years later and the collegiate model that I knew and grew up with has undergone so many changes it’s almost unrecognizable. Players are absolutely profiting off of their image now, which is a
good thing great thing. Now though, we’re beginning to go down a path where players and rosters are being tampered with by boosters or “collectives,” and guys are holding their teams hostage over the deals. There’s also the unfortunate fact that for the top players in football and basketball, your NIL package is as important, if not more so than your facilities, education and maybe even the coaching staff.
That’s a problem for not just myself but many other fans of college sports.
If you go back to when the NCAA made the official announcement about adopting bylaws which allowed players to profit off of their name, image and likeness, it’s important to note two things.
First, there wasn’t a whole lot of guidance that came with that. It was literally four bullet points about guidance to college athletes, recruits, their families and member schools:
Individuals can engage in NIL activities that are consistent with the law of the state where the school is located. Colleges and universities may be a resource for state law questions.
College athletes who attend a school in a state without an NIL law can engage in this type of activity without violating NCAA rules related to name, image and likeness.
Individuals can use a professional services provider for NIL activities.
Student-athletes should report NIL activities consistent with state law or school and conference requirements to their school.
Where do we go from here?
Matt and David kinda summarized the feelings I think a lot of fans have:
David gets at the central problem with NIL. It's not a question of loose or narrow tailoring. There was no effort made at all. And that's on top of patchwork state laws. Plenty of data tells us fans are fine with compensation. But that lack of care erodes trust and hope. https://t.co/X7yQQ41ajj— Matt Harris (@MattJHarris85) May 2, 2022
I don’t think there are a lot of reasonable people who believe guys shouldn’t be able to make money off of NIL. It’s a good thing, and nobody should be upset with players for taking advantage of this period of limbo where everyone is unsure of how to proceed. It’s not their fault the adults couldn’t figure out a reasonable solution to implementing the rules. We’re just now at the point to where a lot of these “NIL” deals are straight up pay for play contracts almost akin to a professional league.
That’s not what the rule was intended to be and that’s not what college sports is supposed to be either.
I think that there are changes on the horizon, but for now, this is the new reality. You can adapt or die. For some fans though, it may be tough to reconcile what this version of college athletics is turning into. That’s okay, too.