Commentary

'Show Me The Money' In College Sports

I have two boys who love and are also pretty good at sports.  They excel at competitive swimming and competitive soccer.   My youngest is an elegant baseball player and my oldest is a sharpshooter on the basketball court.  I can’t wait for them to get into college and start getting paid for their skills!

OK, I realize that may not be realistic, based on their genes.  I don’t truly think my kids are going to be starters at a D1 college level, but they could be.  Anything is possible.  

I may be kidding, but there are plenty of families who are saying something similar at this very moment, now that the NCAA has paved the way for college athletes to profit off their names and likenesses.  The flood gates of sponsorship have already opened.  A large number of college athletes are signing deals ranging from national sports drink companies to local gyms as we speak. 

I heard a story last week about a booster for the Miami Hurricanes announcing he would be personally paying each of the football team’s players $500 a month to promote his dealership. 

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I agree if a school should be allowed to profit from their players, the players should be allowed to profit from their own name and likeness. 

What essentially happens is that players become a media channel unto themselves, which really isn’t new for them.  These players all come from a generation that have been building their own personal brand for years on Instagram, Tik Tok and other social media.  Some of them may already be generating income through these channels, and now they can do so in the open, with the implicit approval of the teams they are going to be playing for. 

This poses a question: What is the line between promoting the team and promoting the athlete?

In professional sports, there are unions that create guidelines for players to manage their own brand.  The teams own their brands and the players own theirs.  When you see a State Farm ad featuring Chris Paul or Aaron Rodgers, you will notice there is no mention of the team they play for.  These athletes are the center of attention because they are household names.  Their likeness is recognizable, so they can disassociate from the team and still provide value. 

The same cannot be said in college sports.  While these players are heavily recruited and probably well-known on social media and in their local markets, they lack that national recognition. 

This is the case at least in their first year.  In the second year, there are a small number of players who become nationally known and rise to prominence in sports like football and basketball.  These are the stars, who likely will cash in immediately.  The rest of their teams will be left behind, maybe making that local car dealer or local gym money. 

This creates an inequity not only within the team itself, but furthers an inequity between male and female athletes, between stars and role players, and more.  Inequity creates things like jealousy and an uncomfortable tension that can ruin the chemistry of a team. 

Regardless of what is said on ESPN and other sports outlets, college athletics thrives on team chemistry and not the value of any individual player.  Aaron Rodgers may be solely responsible for why the Packers are good and without him, they will drop down a rung or two.  On the flipside, Clemson without Trevor Lawrence is still Clemson, and they will still be in the mix. 

That brings me to the second point.  How will this system of paying players have an impact on team performance? On one side, the best players are going to flock to the teams where they can have the largest market, the highest national recognition, and the best income potential that leads them to professional sports and a secondary payday.  The haves will end up with the best talent, but as team chemistry may be injured, the have nots will depend on well-organized role player teams that could unseat the traditional powerhouses. 

Just look no further than last week, when the U.S. men’s basketball team lost in an exhibition to Nigeria.  The U.S. team has the best talent and no chemistry.  The Nigerian team had motivation and chemistry, and they won.  The U.S. team will pull it together soon, and quickly, but they are not invincible.  This is a microcosm of what could happen in college sports these next two years.

I guess that is what they play the game for, so to speak.  I can’t wait to see what happens this year!

2 comments about "'Show Me The Money' In College Sports".
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  1. George Simpson from George H. Simpson Communications, July 14, 2021 at 2:10 p.m.

    While I agree with you that players with brand recognition should be allowed to make deals, you have to understand that all this is doing is adding another layer of corruption to a system that has been extraordinarily corrupt for decades. You can be sure that those brand players have been getting paid by wealthy alumni ( re: " car dealers") in the form of jobs for their relatives, shopping sprees, free meals, loaned cars and everyone's favorite...cash. I don't  see this changing with the new opportunity to make money above the table.

  2. Dane Claussen from University of Idaho, July 14, 2021 at 3:28 p.m.

    "I can’t wait for them to get into college and start getting paid for their skills! OK, I realize that may not be realistic, based on their genes. I don’t truly think my kids are going to be starters at a D1 college level, but they could be. Anything is possible."

    Why not focus instead of developing their minds? Being well educated and intelligent is a far better bet in life, for all kinds of reasons, than fantasizing about playing big-time sports.

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