NCAA will pay the players

The NCAA unanimously voted for “athletes to profit from names, images, and likenesses” on Tuesday, October 29 in Emory University’s campus, and the decision has major implications for the current debate overplaying players.

As of now, three divisions of the NCAA are working to find a way in which they can update their rules to match this ruling that “maintains a distinction between college and professional sports.”

The NCAA board plans to implement these updated rules by January 2021 in all three divisions.

This decision has been a long time coming. Universities continue to profit off of their teams and athletes in a multi-billion dollar industry. The University of Texas is the most profitable school, with its athletes bringing in $219,402,579 in the 2017-2018 season reported by USA Today.

In the past, any type of endorsement or players profiting off of their name, image, or likeness was ruled illegal by the NCAA. One violation in particular that comes to mind is former University of Georgia running back Todd Gurley. Back in the Summer of 2012, Gurley sold autographed merchandise, for $250 each, to a fan from Douglasville, GA. The Heisman front runner at the time, Gurley received a four-game suspension.

In the 2011 season five Ohio State players, including current New York Jets wide receiver Terrelle Pryor and head coach at the time Jim Tressel, were suspended for the first two games with an additional $250,000 fine. The five players were caught selling team-issued equipment for their own profit. This shows that even though they’re still college students, even with the superstar title of student-athlete, there is still a need for money. 

Gurley is now a superstar NFL running back for the Los Angeles Rams. At a recent press conference, Gurley sported a shirt that had the abbreviation of NCAA, but it didn’t mean National Collegiate Athletic Association. It stated, “Not Concerned About Athletes.”

Before the NCAA’s ruling, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill to allow pay for college athletes for their names, images, and likenesses on September 30 called the Fair To Play Act. Though the Fair to Play act won’t be enacted until January 1, 2023, it was still a big step in the direction of helping the players. 

More recently North Carolina U.S. Congressman Mark Walker proposed a federal tax code that would have ended in the NCAA giving all student-athletes the right to their names, images, and likenesses. Since then dozens of states have expressed interest in following Governor Newsom’s lead. Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis recently expressed that he’s in favor of a bill similar to the Fair to Play act. If passed in its current form through Florida, the bill could go into effect sometime in the summer of 2020. 

Allowing players to profit off of their names has been a push for a long time, and Governor Newsom’s actions seemingly pushed the NCAA to address the topic. If the Fair to Play Act were enacted, California schools would not have been able to participate in NCAA championships or be a part of conferences — before the NCAA’s new ruling. It would also give a recruiting advantage to California schools if players flocked to where they could be paid.

What does this mean for athletes in the future? The NCAA board members released a statement on the 29th that stated they will find a way to give each of their athletes an equal opportunity to make a profit, but just like any other student, education is the main priority. 

What does this mean for the universities? The one-and-done method has been a popular one for NCAA basketball players. After one year of playing for a university, the athlete would be able to enter the NBA draft. For sports like football and baseball, players usually stay in the NCAA for three or more years until entering their respective drafts.

Baseball, however, is a different story. Athletes can go straight from high school to their team’s farm system that they signed with, like former Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones and Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper. Or they could go the collegiate route players like Dansby Swanson of the Atlanta Braves and Alex Bregman for the Houston Astros who went to top tier D-1 colleges like Vanderbilt and LSU. 

Even some American basketball players choose to forego college altogether when it was allowed in the NBA. Players like Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, and Lou Williams skipped college to pursue their NBA career. Other options that have been explored recently by athletes like Lamelo Ball and R.J. Hampton playing overseas in Australia and possibly entering the NBA Draft thereafter. Ball and Hampton were both highly recruited athletes receiving offers from USC, Kansas, Duke, Kentucky, and Memphis.

The NCAA’s decision still doesn’t mean that student-athletes will stay for the entirety of their college career. Sacramento Kings and former University of Kentucky guard De’Aaron Fox said he wouldn’t have stayed at Kentucky even if he was paid. Fox had an outstanding freshman year averaging 16.7 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 4.6 assists. He was drafted 5th overall to the Kings in the 2017 draft. In an interview that aired on NBCS, he replied “F*ck no” to the question about whether he would have stayed or not. The movement for the players has been praised by high profile players like James, Kevin Durant who attended the University of Texas, and Draymond Green who attended Michigan State University. 

What does this mean for the fans? NCAA video games are back. NCAA Football has been a high target on sports gamers’ wishlists. The last one to come out was NCAA ‘14 sporting the former Michigan Wolverine Denard Robinson on the cover. Since then Robinson spent four years with the Jacksonville Jaguars.  

Whether you’re for or against paying college athletes, this is a monumental moment in college sports. Problems will still occur with agents and possible brand deals for the players, but the NCAA is taking over a year to ensure that specific athletes with more attention aren’t getting those benefits. They want each player to have an equal opportunity to profit off of their names and likeness.