OPINION: Let athletes benefit from their hard work

NCAA should allow students to earn money off of their image

If the university can make money off of an athlete's likeness, why shouldn't the athlete be able to do the same thing?


If the university can make money off of an athlete’s likeness, why shouldn’t the athlete be able to do the same thing? “[The athletes] are slaves to the NCAA and the schools,” Zach Miller, freshman political science major said.

BRUCE MULMAT, Evergreen columnist

The NCAA decided to allow student-athletes to be able to make money off of their names, images and likenesses, or NIL. Mike Leach believes this would be an extreme blow to the WSU football program, having the richer schools acquire more talented players while schools with smaller budgets would struggle to recruit good players.

“The NCAA basically use student-athletes; [the athletes] are slaves to the NCAA and the schools,” said Zach Miller, freshman political science major. “The colleges exploit these students.”

With student-athletes now being able to profit off NIL, there is now a possibility for bigger schools to get better advertising deals.

“For anyone who has been paying attention, the rich are already rich,” said Scott Jedlicka, assistant professor of sport management. “The rules that are in place have not really done anything to prevent a very small number of schools from becoming quite dominant.”

Mike Leach’s statement is a simple argument that ignores how student-athletes are the reason why some coaches can make millions while their players barely get anything.

“Now we are talking not in terms of antitrust but really in terms of individual rights, in terms of what organizations like the NCAA are doing, in terms of limiting individual rights,” Jedlicka said.

With the NCAA allowing athletes to profit off their NIL, this means it will now be possible for college football or basketball video games to come back, or for schools to sell jerseys with specific player names and numbers. This just means there are more opportunities for both schools and players to make money. Yet with this new policy change, conferences need to adjust.

Thankfully for coaches and conferences, this ruling will not happen overnight, as the NCAA is requiring that each conference will have rules and regulations about student-athletes being compensated by 2021. Therefore, the Pac-12 will have plenty of time to create a system for how athletes can benefit from using their NIL.

“Yeah, the term student-athlete was created so they could avoid paying people,” Miller said. “If one person gets injured, they could lose their scholarship.”

The reason why the NCAA decided to make this change is that California’s legislature recently passed a law that allows student-athletes to negotiate endorsement deals and hire agents. The NCAA is staying hands-off because each state will start to have different rules concerning student-athletes.

“It’s much more an exercise in foot-dragging and trying to do as little as possible to prevent states like California from tying their hands,” Jedlicka said. “If some states have these laws, you can’t have a national collegiate sports system.”

Players have a right to profit from their NIL in a collegiate setting. Scholarships and stipends may seem like enough for the university, but it is not. Most college athletes will not play professionally, therefore advertising deals and sponsorships during college could provide additional sources of income for players who may struggle after graduating.

However, not every college sports team would benefit from this change in the NCAA policy. The more popular sports such as football or basketball would be the focus of larger endorsement deals, but it is important to remember that local businesses can do endorsement deals too.

Coaches that say this new ruling will adversely affect their team overestimate the impact of the NCAA’s choice. Schools still can’t give players money to entice them to sign for their team, it gives players the possibility to make money if their jerseys are sold or if they show up in a video game.

Endorsement deals could be a huge benefit for college athletes, giving many the possibility of financial security while at school. This means we may see player unions start to form at the college level and help these players with negotiating endorsement deals with video game companies or merchandisers.

“The limit to what is allowable or what is acceptable in the collegiate model has been inching up year after year,” Jedlicka said. “There has been more creep in the direction of different forms of compensation.”

The schools that prioritize spending on athletics would continue to do so, even if the NCAA hadn’t changed its rules. Anyone who thinks that these schools will now be able to flex their financial muscles to pay student-athletes more will need to wait and see what each conference does to comply with different state laws.

Until then, allowing players to profit off their hard work by accepting endorsement deals will benefit the athletes directly.