Let’s imagine a Southern Illinois University football player makes a leaping interception against Missouri State.
Let’s imagine one of SIU’s staff photographer captures the photograph, which features the leaping defensive back framed perfectly by the goalposts. It’s a photograph that screams for the player to be immortalized on a poster.
For the sake of argument, let’s imagine SIU decides to print a thousand photos and sell them for $10 apiece – that’s a cool ten grand. Until this week, the player would get absolutely nothing, zip, nada, not a penny.
If you’re thinking that doesn’t seem fair, you’re right.
However, this week the NCAA Board of Directors passed a resolution permitting students to benefit from the use of “their name, image and likeness.”
It’s a long overdue move in the world of big-time college athletics. It remains to be seen what effect the rule will have on mid-majors like SIU, but at least athletes will have the opportunity to make a few extra dollars for their toils.
The naysayers, and there are plenty, will argue that athletes are getting paid via their scholarships. And, there is an element of truth to that – athletes who receive a “full-ride” scholarship are getting good value for their labors on field, floor or court.
And, this shouldn’t provide hardship on universities to come up with additional payroll money – we’re talking about funds generated by the sale of an athlete’s name, image or likeness.
But, there is another side to this picture.
Unlike football and basketball players, athletes playing baseball, volleyball, or those who swim or run track, aren’t getting full scholarships. And, under NCAA regulations, most cannot hold jobs and get paid for anything regarding their sports.
If these athletes don’t come from wealthy families, they are likely walking around campus virtually penniless. There isn’t spare change for a lunch with friends, no money for date night or no Saturday night pizza with friends.
This regulation seems to unfairly target athletes.
Imagine being a music student on campus. Imagine you are a talented guitar player. There is nothing to stop you from joining a band and making some cash. Perhaps you are an art student whose work appears in galleries on campus. There is nothing to stop you from accepting commissions to paint portraits – even if you have a scholarship in your field.
What’s worse, if you are an athlete at a Power 5 conference, your university is likely cashing in on your athletic abilities in a big way. The next time you walk down a busy sidewalk take note of the apparel being worn – there’s a good chance you’ll see a Kentucky sweat shirt, a Notre Dame cap or a North Carolina T-shirt.
And, let’s not forget that Michigan, among others, sells 100,000 tickets for football games. That basketball tickets at some basketball powerhouses are sometimes passed down from generation to generation. The amount of money generated by college athletics is astronomical.
No matter how you look at it, the money is generated by the players. Take the student athletes out of the picture and you’re left with a cavernous empty stadium. It only makes sense that students be given some cut of the action.
It is up to the schools to figure out how to make it work.
The momentum that pushed this change into reality came from a recent law in California that allowed students-athletes in that state to cash in. Coincidentally, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced his support for the measure just hours before the NCAA adopted the new rule.
To use the obvious pun, this shouldn’t be a political football. It’s only fair for athletes to share in the money they are largely responsible for generating. It’s as American as apple pie.
The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan