The NCAA’s latest NIL ‘solution’ is nothing but a shell game

The NCAA's latest NIL 'solution' is nothing but a shell game

College sports’ has once again ripped off its student-athlete robe and revealed its naked capitalistic body. By leaving out Florida State because its starting quarterback suffered a season-ending injury in late November, the College Football Playoff Committee showed that its goal is to put the best product possible on television.

That decision is merely the latest in the full-blown professional turn of college sports, especially football. Conference realignment that has resulted in a Big Ten that stretches from sea to shining sea annihilated any remaining facade of amateurism. The courts have noticed for a while that everyone in college sports is making money except for the people who do the lion’s share of work in generating it — the players.

The NCAA is dealing with a major lawsuit in which it is being sued for billions of dollars in retroactive NIL money and revenue sharing from television deals. In dealing with that, while also desperately trying to keep athletes from being deemed as university employees, NCAA President Charlie Baker wants to finally allow universities to put money directly into the athletes’ pockets — sort of.

In a proposal obtained by Yahoo Sports, Baker wants a new subdivision in the NCAA. For programs that elect to be a part of it — likely the major revenue generating ones — they will be permitted to enter into NIL deals with their own players. Also, schools in this new subdivision will be required to establish a trust of at least $30,000 for half of their scholarship athletes. For the athletes who receive a trust, the schools can choose to increase it on a player-by-player basis with no limits. The only rule is that the schools must meet Title IX requirements.

This proposal is certainly the biggest step yet towards college athletes being compensated for the revenue they produce. If this goes into effect, the universities will finally have to share some of the wealth generated from blood, sweat,and strength of the people between the lines. That is all well and good, but the progress is still only incremental.

On The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz, Jessica Smetana asked college football expert Spencer Hall, in the midst of all the outrage about this season’s College Football Playoff, to explain that there has actually never been a tidy way to declare a national champion in the sport. Hall succinctly described American history and said that college football is simply a microcosm of the country.

“We do the dumbest, easiest thing, and then we do a slightly less dumb one when the mileage runs out on the dumb, wrong thing,” Hall said. “That’s the whole history of this country and college football, to me, is like part and parcel with that.”

Instead of doing a full mea culpa on our wrongs and making a thorough attempt to undo the damage, America prefers to inch its way towards justice.

The business of major college football was, by law, taken out of the NCAA’s jurisdiction in 1984. Major programs did not want the NCAA regulating their national television appearances. They saw how much money they could make and wanted it all. The United States Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of what is now known as the College Football Playoff.

However, in maximizing profits, the schools had no intention of sharing one cent of this new money with the players. The amateurism they defeated the NCAA over in court, they still wanted the players to operate under those rules. In fact, the NCAA’s only authority over the major college football programs was to punish those that violated the sanctity of what they fought to break away from.

It was another 20 years before college athletes received a scholarship that accurately accounted for the full cost of attendance. That is a result of a lawsuit filed in 2009 by 1995 Men’s Final Four Most Outstanding Player Ed O’Bannon. He saw that his likeness was being used in the NCAA Basketball video game long after he left UCLA, and he still was not receiving any compensation for that.

NIL was ruled by the Supreme Court to be permissible on a state-by-state basis in 2021. In the concurring opinion, beer’s biggest fan, Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh wrote his concurring opinion: “Nowhere else in America can businesses get away with agreeing not to pay their workers a fair market rate on the theory that their product is defined by not paying their workers a fair market rate.”

Guess what is not the fair rate for a college football quarterback or basketball point guard: a trust. When I was 14 and worked at the community center pool, I did not receive a trust. I was paid money for stocking the soap, paper towels, and toilet paper. If those items were not accessible to guests, no one would pay to access the pool.

College athletes at major programs generate an enormous amount of revenue. No one would pay to attend — and media companies certainly wouldn’t fork over billions of dollars to air — a football game at Michigan Stadium, Bryant-Denny Stadium, or anywhere else without football players. So Baker’s conclusion is that due compensation for players is them getting paid for advertising through the schools, and receiving money that they can’t immediately access.

This is, again, another example of America slugging forward an inch towards justice, and then standing tall and expecting a round of applause for progress. The schools are not these players’ wealthy parents. They profit a great deal from hours of work and travel by the players.

Baker’s goal is not to give the college athletes their much deserved piece of the pie. He is clutching to his chest with all of his might what is left of the original model of college sports. Per the Yahoo story, the NCAA does not support the concept of revenue sharing, “pay for play” will still not be allowed, and the NCAA is still very much trying to avoid the athletes being declared employees.

This proposal is no revolutionary act. It is the power brokers in college sports scrambling to present something that looks a little bit better than what they were doing before.

The American way: Don’t fix the problem, just make it look better.

Original source here

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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.