Yesterday, they held a presser for the Countdown to Kickoff charity event, and a player compensation discussion broke out. Given it was the two Stinchcombs and David Greene doing the talking, it was pretty thoughtful.
“These players feel as if their images and likenesses have been used, and they didn’t realize any type of value for having had their likeness used, then that needs to be addressed in some capacity,” said Stinchcomb, who was a first-team All-American at Georgia in 1998, and a first-round pick in the 1999 NFL draft. “I know this, when I signed a college scholarship, it was to play football at a university, and I was going to be afforded room and board, and the cost of tuition and books. And that’s exactly what I got. What I think we’re seeing now is it’s going beyond some of that. Now there may be language in the scholarship or the letter-of-intent that says they can do that. But I don’t think that was implied in the contract, and I don’t know that any 18-year-old, even after having it explained to them, would fully grasp what they’re granting to the NCAA to use their likeness as individuals, if in fact that’s what’s going on.”
When Greene was in school, his number 14 was sold all over Georgia. But his name was not on any of those jerseys, so he didn’t receive any of the income. Still, it was clear whose jersey it was supposed to be, just as this year plenty of No. 11 jerseys are being sold, without Aaron Murray’s name on the back.
“You could consider college sports as amateur, which it is … but there’s a big business around it,” said Greene, the winningest quarterback in Georgia history, who spent three years in the NFL. “There’s a lot of pressure around it too. You can’t tell me there isn’t a lot of pressure on these kids, even though they’re not being paid to play. There’s a lot of pressure on these kids to perform.”
The idea that what surrounds college athletics in just the past few years has changed significantly was a recurring theme.
The three former players seemed sensitive to the notion that student-athletes get a free education, and that some consider that sufficient payment. Matt Stinchcomb also made clear that he doesn’t have sympathy for athletes who don’t get their degrees.
“If you’re out here and you’re playing football and you’re complaining for free, (but) you’re not taking advantage of the academics and the diploma, then in a lot of ways yeah, you’re playing for free, and that’s your own choice,” he said. “But where I think that scenario looses traction, and the push-back I guess I would have at the NCAA level is they have gone above and beyond this implied contract that says: You play ball, we give you the education. Except now, it’s you play ball, and in compensation we’ll allow you to go to school here, we’ll pay room and board here … and by the way on the side here, we’re gonna have a contract with whatever licensing company for them to have the rights to sell your jersey in the bookstores, and we’re also going to contract with video game makers, and we’re gonna use your likeness, and we’re gonna capture that value, and none of that will be realized by you as an individual.”
The more money that flows into collegiate athletics, the more cash-starved the schools and the NCAA behave, the more discontent is going to be generated among student-athletes who see the disparity Stinchcomb describes. It’s inevitable.
Especially because the kids get smacked in the face with it every day they’re on campus, as Weiszer points out.
Greene addressed all of those No. 14 jerseys that were sold when he was quarterback for Georgia from 2001-04, which he did not get a cut.
“The game has evolved over time and the business behind the game has evolved as well,” Greene said. “I don’t know if there were a whole lot of Charley Trippi jerseys being sold (in the 1940s) even though he was the biggest stud on campus at the time.”
Georgia’s official athletic website is currently auctioning off team-issued football jerseys including the numbers of Todd Gurley (3), John Jenkins (6), Tavarres King (12), Bacarri Rambo (18), Sanders Commings (19) and 83 (Cornelius Washington).
Their perspective is interesting, because as former NFL players, they all received compensation for their likenesses being used in video games based on NFL play. Jon Stinchcomb grappled with the question of why that should be different on the collegiate level:
“It’s tricky because from a fans’ perspective it’s balancing, `Oh, all these players are greedy. They see an opportunity when they should appreciate the opportunity to play and represent your school and enjoy a game at a collegiate level.’ And we do. That’s the awesome side of football. I don’t think any player would ever leverage that, but you have to separate the two. Is it greed or is it somewhat being taken advantage of on an individual level?”
Heartfelt stuff. Which makes you wonder how much this issue is on players’ minds these days. Will it be that hard for the O’Bannon plaintiffs to find a student-athlete ready to step up and add his name to the complaint?