Unless you’re inflicted with the most severe kind of equinophobia, you probably don’t get much satisfaction from seeing a dead horse get beat. But since the horse that is the NCAA’s current player compensation system appears to still have some life in it, I have to admit I’m sort of enjoying the additional beatings it keeps taking (as I’ve written about here, here, here, and here). As I’ve indicated previously, I and others have a fundamental problem with a multi-billion dollar industry not coming close to fairly compensating the people who make the multi-billions possible.
The recent fun started on August 6th when Jay Bilas, former NCAA player and current ESPN announcer, took to Twitter to expose a delicious bit of hypocrisy. The NCAA has long contended that it doesn’t seek to profit from players’ likenesses. In the NCAA’s mind, when someone buys a Texas A&M #2 jersey, it doesn’t have anything to do with current Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel who happens to wear that jersey number for that team every Saturday. But (at least until Bilas’ tweeting) the NCAA’s own website took you to a page where you could buy that very #2 jersey if you searched the name “Manziel” (with the profit from the jersey going to the NCAA, of course). Similar results occurred for other star players. Surely if the jerseys had nothing to do with the individuals, the NCAA’s own search terms are quite a coincidence. The NCAA quickly realized its error, first removing the search bar from its website before ultimately deciding to stop selling jerseys altogether a few days later. My sources report that Manziel and other stars haven’t seen a check yet.
On a similar note, the NCAA recently announced that it would no longer allow video game maker EA Sports to use its name and logo in EA’s college football game. The NCAA cited pending litigation as a reason for its decision. Individual schools and conferences are free to continue working with EA, but this seems to be an implicit recognition from the NCAA that the plaintiffs in that case might have a point.
Finally, the aforementioned Johnny Manziel is in hot water with the NCAA over allegedly being paid to sign autographs last winter. If the NCAA finds him guilty of this offense, his college career is likely over as he’ll probably be suspended for this season and enter the NFL draft next spring. Among myriad others, reigning NFL MVP Adrian Peterson weighed in with his belief that college players ought to be able to receive money for signing autographs. After all, I (along with probably every reader of this post) could have done so in college had anyone been willing to pay for our autographs. Public consensus seems to be reaching the same conclusion that Peterson did.
In sum, the straws are piling up and the camel’s back looks like it’s about to give. Within a couple of years, my feeling is that we won’t be talking about if to pay college players, we’ll be talking about how to pay college players (perhaps via a trust account they can’t access until leaving school or, even better, requiring them to graduate in order to access the account).