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NCAA To Study Who Controls What About Athletic Images, Likeness And Names

So far: blah, blah, blah

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NCAA Men’s Final Four - National Championship - Texas Tech v Virginia
MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - APRIL 08: Brandone Francis #1 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders reacts after his teams 85-77 loss to the Virginia Cavaliers during the 2019 NCAA men’s Final Four National Championship game at U.S. Bank Stadium on April 08, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The NCAA, with a nudge from legislative proposals in Congress and various state houses, has appointed a working group to start looking at issues around who controls student athlete images, names and likeness.

We don’t know the ins-and-outs here but we do know that indeed, many bills have been introduced including one, we think, in North Carolina.

There are certainly Title IX issues here and if you pay the revenue sports as things currently exist, then you have to pay crew and volleyball too. And while we’re not experts, we’re pretty sure there would be lawsuits if you paid football and basketball more.

And when it announced the committee, the NCAA made clear that whatever came out of it, student-athletes wouldn’t be seen as employees when the recommendations came in.

That’s understandable on two levels: first, on some level, the NCAA wants to distinguish itself from professional sports and to retain some education credibility. And secondly, separating labor from education would subject the NCAA to a new set of regulations and procedures.

You might argue, and perhaps fairly, that it should be, but no organization is going to willingly embrace more difficulty any more than any one of us would in our own lives. A 2080 to replace a 1040? Sounds like fun, right?

Right?

The NCAA is right to push education and should make it a bigger factor, perhaps tying compensation of whatever sort to academic success.

However the constant pleas of poverty are getting ridiculous. Dabo Swinney just signed a contract for $93 million over 10 years. If you figure that Clemson easily has 100 players on the football team, regardless of scholarship status, that would be $90,000 (rounded) a year for those students (leaving aside the issues mentioned above).

One thing the NCAA might consider at some point is a thorough public audit of not just the association’s revenues but each affiliated school.

That gets into other difficulties of course - UNC and Duke are public and private respectively and have different requirements about finances and disclosure of same - but even so, when coaches are making millions and athletic departments are pleading poverty, it would probably be smart to be very up front about exactly how much money everyone has and where it’s going.

And needless to say guys like Dabo Swinney and Mike Krzyzewski, who also makes a nice income, are the exceptions. When you get past the power conferences and down to what are called the mid-majors for God knows whatever reason, well, the mid-majors (are there high and low majors?), the conferences like the A-10 and the American, much less the Southern or the SWAC or MEAC, are never going to be able to pay players in the same way that a Clemson, Duke, Alabama or Ohio State conceivably could. It’s just not the same world financially.

On some level, therefore, academic success should be rewarded. Morgan State can’t possibly compete with Michigan State on the court, at least not consistently, but it can compete when it comes to GPA. And if a smaller school excels in what it’s supposed to do, namely graduating students even (especially) if they compete athletically when we’re all fairly cynical about college athletes actually going to class (thanks UNC!), there should be some way to reward that.

Compensating student-athletes for academic success isn’t the same thing as an employer-employee relationship and since it’s based on individual accomplishment, it wouldn’t seem to violate Title IX either.

Whatever happens, at some point there has to be some sort of reckoning. The amount of money flowing through football and basketball is staggering. Coaches deserve to make a solid living. It’s a demanding job and one that profits the institutions in many ways (we bet UMBC’s applications are through the roof after their famous upset of Virginia in last year’s tournament).

But there has to be some way to include the players and if you can do it by stressing academic success, well, so much the better.

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