Lon Kruger wants to figure out a way to pay the student-athletes who are superstars.
Oklahoma basketball coach Lon Kruger did some homework before he spoke Tuesday on a Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics panel about allowing college players to be paid. Kruger said he interviewed five business owners in Oklahoma and asked them two questions.
First, if the NCAA allowed players to get endorsement money, would the businesses invest $1,000 in athletes for an hour of their time? The owners told Kruger they absolutely would regardless of the impact on their business.
Second, if the NCAA allowed it, how many athletes would the businesses invest in? The owners told Kruger the high end was 10 and the low end was six. Kruger said he was surprised by that answer.
“The goal is to be fair,” Kruger said. “Maybe we start at 2 percent or 5 percent of the student-athletes and how do we help them find their value given that the majority of student-athletes have a pretty fair deal?”
Hey, it’s a start. And at least he’s willing to concede to reality.
Kruger, who made $2.85 million this year, said he can understand the arguments made that athletes are exploited or undervalued.
“Certainly there are cases where that is true,” he said. “Universities are making millions of dollars off of sales and tickets, merchandise sales, sponsorship rights. No question there’s a lot of money to be made. It’s a big business. … We’re all after some middle ground where we’re fair to the student-athlete and protecting their opportunity to participate.”
To me, this is an easy place for the NCAA to begin to compromise. Rights deals don’t cost schools a dime and don’t raise any troubling Title IX complications. Yes, there is a potential for abuse, but it’s not an impossible barrier to overcome with some thought.
Besides, the current format is so illogical. How can Todd Gurley’s endorsement be worth nothing one day as a college junior and then worth millions on the very next day when he terminates his college eligibility? Besides that, has anyone considered the possibility that some of these kids might find it preferable to stay in college rather than leave early for the pros if there was endorsement money rolling in for them?
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