Whatever the market will bear.

For those of you struggling to understand how student-athletes’ talents could ever possibly be valued in an open market setting, let a former Washington football player explain how it’s done in the real world.

Former NBA player Nate Robinson says a University of Washington booster offered him six figures to return to the Huskies football team after he left to focus on basketball.

On the latest episode of their Sports Illustrated podcast, “Holdat,” Robinson and fellow former pro Carlos Boozer discussed the times they were offered impermissible benefits as college players. Robinson said he was offered “$100,000 per year” by a booster to resume his football career after leaving the team after his freshman season.

“When they fired Rick Neuheisel my freshman year that made it easy for me to make my decision to quit and go play basketball, which I wanted to do anyway,” Robinson explained. “For my three years at UW, I had a booster offer me $100,000 per year to come back and play football because they needed Nate Robinson back on the football field because we weren’t winning any games, it wasn’t exciting…

It’s not that hard, folks.  Supply and demand.

By the way, the UW is shocked, shocked, something like that might have happened.

In a statement issued to the Seattle Times, the Washington athletic department denied any knowledge of the scenario Robinson described.

“The events described by Nate Robinson had not been reported to our department in any way, and were new information to us this morning,” the school said. “Based on his statements it does not appear that any NCAA violations occurred, but we look forward to following up with Nate and any other relevant parties to learn more about this matter in hopes of continuing to foster a full environment of compliance within all of our athletic programs.”

Yeah, I’m sure they’ll get right on that.

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32 Comments

Filed under It's Just Bidness, The NCAA

32 responses to “Whatever the market will bear.

  1. Bigshot

    I’m calling BS on that one or stupitity on Robinson’s part.

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  2. Atticus

    Sounds good. Take the $200k+ scholarship away as well as a result if we are talking a true free market. Tell the FB at Vandy he is on his own for the free market now and see how you fill out the roster….couple that with dwindling youth football participation, Title XI issues….Good luck with that….

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    • Why does one preclude the other? Robinson was offered the $100K on top of his scholarship.

      Schools will figure out what they have to pay to attract talent, just like any other employer does.

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      • Atticus

        If they are paying Zamir White $500,000 a year it has to come from somewhere. If the total roster number costs $10 million it has to come from scholarships. Especially for the schools that aren’t making that much profit. Bama, Clemson, UGA Ohio State etc….can afford bigger dollars but the large % of schools will not survive. Its already an increasing issue and its under the table. Open it up and the floodgates will never be shut. The haves and have nots are getting more and more separated as a result of the money. Open it up and the money goes up exponentially. The players all receive at least $200k and up already. So if its free market the numbers won’t add up unless its restructured. Despite what you think it won’t work. You say “just like any other employer does”…..it is apples and oranges. They are not just like any other employer. A completely different and much more limited labor market. 30 5 stars a year. Not even in the realm of the same logic. But hey that’s my opinion and you have yours. I love your blog, you are a great fan so we’ll agree to disagree.

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        • Sure, but somewhere’s a pretty big place — boosters tossing in more money, cuts to things like $63 million facilities, or $10000 lockers. Not to mention that letting players get paid for their NLIs don’t cost schools a dime.

          Schools that can’t afford to pay players won’t. They’ll move to lower division football.

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          • DawgPhan

            I suspect that NLI payments do cut into fundraising efforts if it comes up.

            Do I give greg another check to build something to attract recruits or do I give the recruit I want money to attract him?

            But if NLI gets opened up the schools can stop competing on the artificial grounds of barbershops and DJ booths.

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        • CB

          I’m not seeing where the opinion is coming in. Looks like stone cold economics any way you frame. The idea that there isn’t enough money baffles me. I just don’t see how any logically sane person could justify that notion with coaching salaries where they are and the ongoing facilities arms race.

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      • Sides

        Hey Senator, I enjoy the conversations on these posts. It’s obviously becoming a big topic of conversation nationally with the BBall arrests. I have seen a lot of blogs and posts about this topic from you but I can’t put my finger on exactly what you think should be done. If you were in charge, what exact changes would you make?

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  3. Thorn Dawg

    Nate Robinson = Tony Cole.

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  4. AusDawg85

    Even if player compensation is the right thing to do, does anyone believe the NCAA or even the conference administrations are capable of handling the process. Recent articles about the bloat and mismanagement of the USOC and calling for its dissolution seems to be what the future holds for the NCAA once the floodgates of doling-out dollars are opened.

    What system could possible be put in place to provide a sense of order (given that the current system seems so out of order already)?

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    • Got Cowdog

      I don’t think the NCAA is going anywhere soon, the schools and conferences need it as a front to protect their interests but I think you are dead on believing it foolish that the NCAA could fairly regulate that process. I agree with Senator; paying the players to use the NLi is a great place to start, but if you do that the players should be entitled to representation by both agents and attorneys and will likely have to be.
      I don’t think the NCAA wants to open that PANDORA’S BOX (Anyone get that from the other day’s post? Drink up!) for obvious reasons even though it could be made fair to both sides.

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  5. Cousin Eddie

    UW is wanting to investigate so they can ask the booster why he didn’t just pass the cash to them instead of the players.

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  6. Huntindawg

    Ditto with Sides.

    There is always the option of going back to the true student athlete model; i.e., athletes that are students that can gain admission to their chosen school based solely upon their academics.

    The other end of the spectrum is to have a draft for the top x number of players as ranked by your chosen recruiting service(s). Have salary caps, a cba for players, etc. Have that be your division one football. You probably end up with 30 -40 teams in D1. All other players are free agents or can go to a D2 school for a scholarship. The positive for this is that there is a lot more parity in D1.

    Listen, we are all kidding ourselves that the vast majority of the Rivals 100 are students in any real sense of the word once they step foot on campus. Did ANY of you ever have a football player in business school with you? I saw not one football player in any of my classes at UGA, ever.

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    • DawgPhan

      Not speaking for the senator, but I believe that he has suggested opening up NLI rights to the players. If Gurley can make money signing autographs, then so be it.

      That gets away from schools paying players and title ix issues and allows players to trade on their likeness.

      It would also open the door to another NCAA football game from EA.

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      • Sides

        I’m beginning to get the impression from his comments that he is advocating much more than that. I think he is in favor of a straight up pay model where players receive payments from the schools depending on what they determine as the players value. I’m interested to hear how he thinks it will work; maybe a salary/recruitment cap or the big schools break away from mid tier schools. On top of this, it sounds like players would be allowed to monetize their likeness in an unlimited number of ways while they play for the schools; selling autographs, local car commercials, and club promotions. In the off-season they will be allowed to work for boosters for big checks while doing no work.

        I think these are terrible ideas and it seems like he is actively promoting it even though I doubt he would want to see it happen.

        Liked by 1 person

        • The only thing I’m advocating is that the NCAA and schools should quit running an illegal cartel. As long as both sides enter freely into an agreement about player compensation, I have no opinion whatsoever on what those terms should be.

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          • Sides

            Like I said before, I’m not a lawyer but I understand the basics of business law. When you say both sides, do you mean an individual player negotiating with an individual school or are we talking about a group of athletes negotiating with the NCAA (union style)? From my perspective, both sides enter into an agreement. The compensation is the scholarship and whatever perks come with that. My problem is the players don’t have options. They have to take a bad NCAA deal because they are not allowed to make money on their skills (not the NCAA fault unless they colluded with pro leagues). If Enough high school players went pro and hurt the quality of play (and revenue) then the NCAA would up the compensation to attract top players. The NCAA is what it is and no one is going to change it, the pro leagues in my opinion are the ones with the most blame. They are keeping players from reaching their market value.

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            • From my perspective, both sides enter into an agreement.

              I don’t think that word means what you think it means.

              “Take it or leave it” isn’t an agreement. Especially when one side prevents the other from even hiring representation to negotiate.

              I don’t get your point about this being the fault of the pros more than anything. Colleges are making billions off the current arrangement. Colleges are the ones enforcing the amateurism protocol. Exactly how many one and done kids are there in a given year — ten, fifteen max? You really believe nobody outside of those few would earn more than what they’re getting now in a free-market setting?

              As far as nobody’s going to change the NCAA, that’s what Jeffrey Kessler’s up to, right? Why not reserve judgment on that until we see how it plays out?

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              • Sides

                I think the conversation has moved on from this thread since I just read some of your most recent posts. You do a great job keeping people engaged in your blog. It is because of the interesting, relevant material with some personal commentary that keeps people coming back.

                I take it from your non-answer to my question that you believe the players should collectively bargain their contract. I would love to hear how you think it will work. I don’t see how this is possible or how it will result in anything significantly better than is in place now.

                When a proposal is take it or leave it and someone takes it, it is an agreement. It doesn’t matter if there are negotiations. When we hire a warehouse person, the job pays $x and it is not negotiable. If you don’t think its fair, go somewhere else. If enough people go somewhere else then we will raise the pay to compete.

                How do you not get the point about pros? Every example you use has to do with a blue chip recruit or a star player with immediate pro earning power who is forced into unpaid labor. AJ Green and Todd Gurley should have already gone pro when they took the money. All these college basketball players should have gone straight to the NBA. Why didn’t they? Its because a surely illegal rule says they can’t. You can work on a factory assembly line at 16 but playing pro basketball at 18 is too dangerous?

                No one is worried about the 90% of college athletes with minimal earning potential. The programs they play for lose money. They are getting a relatively fair deal although I think scholarships should increase with inflation or program earnings. I don’t know who Jeffrey Kessler is but I can guarantee you that it will only result in marginal improvement. I have seen enough of government and legal workings to know that not much will change. The best bet is having the pro leagues develop their own talent.

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                • When we hire a warehouse person, the job pays $x and it is not negotiable.

                  The idea that your warehouse candidate and someone with a unique skill set like Green or Gurley are on relatively equal footing is ludicrous. That you see things in that light makes it hard to have a substantive discussion on the subject. It’s the kind of thinking I referenced before about how folks who defend amateurism ignore basic economic theory.

                  And, look, that’s fine. Just be honest about it and leave it at “I don’t like colleges paying football players”. I don’t have a problem with someone taking that subjective stance.

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                  • Sides

                    All we are talking about is employment contracts. Lets take the example of a skilled IT worker. We pay a certain rate for IT work and if someone doesn’t like it they can go elsewhere, we will find someone who does. The colleges can always find players for the rate they pay, the problem is the elite skilled players don’t have anywhere else to go if they don’t like the contract. They should be allowed to go pro.

                    I think players are compensated even though they are amateurs (and deserve more than they get considering coaches salaries and school revenue). If the colleges paid 10% more, no one would be happy for long. 50% more, still not enough. With everything in life, if you don’t like the deal you need to go somewhere else. The pro leagues are preventing players from having options.

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                    • There are more skilled IT workers in the American economy than there are four and five-star athletes. You’re still comparing apples and oranges.

                      The reason your company can negotiate a certain compensation level is because that’s where the general market is. The reason the schools can do it is because they’ve illegally colluded to fix the labor market.

                      And one more time: “if you don’t like the deal, go elsewhere” isn’t a defense to an antitrust claim.

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                    • Sides

                      I guess I don’t see the NCAA as a cartel. I just see it as one organization competing against other professional athletic leagues. If they colluded with NFL, NBA, or MLB to restrict players access to other leagues then i have a problem. I did read this and tend to agree:

                      “Rubinfeld testified that it actually is not in the classic definition, in which prices are fixed through the restriction of output. Instead, he said the NCAA could be more accurately described as a type of “joint venture,” which has pro-competitive benefits to consider — though he conceded that joint ventures can violate antitrust law.”

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                    • I just see it as one organization competing against other professional athletic leagues.

                      LOL.

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  7. Tony Barnhart- Mr! CFB

    But what do you do with the left tackle who gets no NLI money (because he’s not Johnny Quarterback) and eats Ramen noodles while the guy he protects eats filet mignon. In the paying league, many a left tackle actually makes more from the organization even if the same NLI truths are there. I don’t think it’s fair to demand universities open themselves up to internal discontent where “FMV” is only measured by advertising demand.

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    • When did it become a rule that everyone in the same place of business had to be paid exactly the same amount of money?

      Should the head coach make more than the school president?

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      • Tony Barnhart- Mr! CFB

        it becomes a rule when the master of the contract put it in its offer.

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      • Jt (the other one)

        If the HC brings in more revenue than the President…sure…but to answer your first comment…I think that is called communism.

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        • Tony Barnhart- Mr! CFB

          im sure all you pure market capitalists that emerge from the left on this issue would be appalled at some of the provisions in the NFL CBA. In just one example, fellow players helped make certain that [no damn] rookie ever got what “the free market was willing to pay” the Matthew Staffords of the world. Why did they do this ? I don’t know exactly but it most certainly had to do with the stability of the whole structure, from micro to macro, preventing disgruntled veterans, the overall effect on caps and rosters if that guy is a bust etc etc.

          All I’m saying is that to simply say, give them NLI rights— BOOM MY WORK HERE IS DONE is naive and a waste of time. If you think Universities should have no concern (whether from a right/wrong or impact standpoint) about 1 dude getting a windfall while his very good teammates get jack, we can agree to disagree. At some point this convo has moved into making assumptions that are tenuous— like that a government entity that is part of another government entity and has a dozen government masters and regulators should (or even can) all of a sudden be this incubator of unfettered capitalism.

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    • CB

      Fidel Castro is dead so I’m guessing this is Bernie Sanders commenting.

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  8. I would have paid that much to get Willingham away from UDub. Hell, many years ago, one of the best players UDub has ever had, came to Seattle to play for one reason. UW paid him more than anyone else. Say hello to McElleheny(sp). They even threw in a job at a hospital for his wife.
    Pay them and be done with it. The money is not coming from the school anyway, coming from back pockets of boosters. The NCAA is a cartel and it gets away with it.

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