Living in an over the table world

Andy Staples ponders a world where Mark Walker’s bill becomes a reality.

First, we have to figure out what players would move the meter enough to justify a national advertising campaign. That list is incredibly short. The highest Q score of any college athlete at the moment belongs to Duke basketball player Zion Williamson, and no one else is even in the same zip code. Williamson raised the profile of an entire sport. There hasn’t been a college basketball player like this in decades. (LeBron James would have been like this had he been forced to go to college.) The only football players of recent vintage who compare are Johnny Manziel, Cam Newton and Tim Tebow. They were more phenomena than people as college athletes, and companies would have fallen all over themselves to hire them as pitchmen.

But, as you can see by that short list of names, that’s rare. The only two college football players at the moment who have the name and face recognition to command a national ad campaign are Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Tagovailoa probably would be courted by a variety of companies, and his ideal match would be something like the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, which could use Tagovailoa to promote tourism for his home state. Lawrence, who didn’t become the starter at Clemson until late September, would be the subject of a bidding war between Pert Plus and Pantene.

Locally, you’d see a lot of players getting paid much smaller amounts. Stars on football teams in SEC and Big Ten markets would be signing the aforementioned autographs, and local stores and restaurants might slide players a few bucks to appear in local TV and radio spots. Car dealerships might work trades instead of paying cash. Let’s say this had been within NCAA rules when Tebow was playing. To get an awkward commercial that features him saying “I got my new Ridgeline at Honda of Gainesville,” the dealership might only need to offer a free lease for the remainder of the college career. When the player returns to the car at the end of the lease, the dealership could then sell the vehicle. It would be a very small cash outlay for the dealership that would support the local team and a key player.

The point I think Dan was trying to get me to make with this question is the dollar figures would not be nearly as big as most people think they would. Even very good players would still be in the five-figure range. Only a select few would command big money. In that way, the money would be similar to the amounts of cash that change hands under the table in college football, only the money would go to the player instead of some shady middleman who may or may not pass along the money to the player.

I’m struggling to understand why that would be an apocalyptic outcome for some of you.  Enlighten me as to what I’m missing.

66 Comments

Filed under It's Just Bidness, The NCAA

66 responses to “Living in an over the table world

  1. Nothing. It’s not a big deal until some Saudi prince or russian oil tycoon decides they like Bama or USC, etc.

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    • In the case of that possibility, let me be the first to suggest the University of Georgia Oilers.

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      • Paul

        The Georgia Frackers?

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      • The effects will be far reaching. We already moan about the loss of our regional rivalries and traditions…which has been largely driven by TV money and the desire to increase the audience by accessing new regional markets. So, now lets throw in some more private or corporate money and see how that works out. Whatever could go wrong? We’ll end up scheduling games based completely on interest driven by TV and endorsement matchups. I can’t wait to see them promote a game with Nike’s two top QB’s…put together before they got out of high school. You guys who love the Tech rivalry had better hope that Coca Cola or some large Rap music label teams up with them and their players, or else we will never play their unimportant asses again.

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        • Napoleon BonerFart

          I don’t see that. Companies already sponsor teams, so that bit of the apocalypse has already come to pass. It’s just the sponsorship of players that would be new. And if Nike wants to bet seven figures on a high school recruit, I say let them. But I doubt it would happen in college football. Too many can’t miss prospects end up missing in college to believe that silly capitalists would be throwing money at them. Remember Mitch Mustain?

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  2. I think one of things people are missing about this whole thing is that no one is going to put out endorsement opportunities to a high school football player until he proves it in college. The local car dealership isn’t going to ask Sterling Boyd to come do a spot for him until he proves he can do it on the field against real opposition. Even Herschel was a big, stiff fullback according to Dooley during fall practice (whether that’s true is another story).

    What I do hope happens is that the seedy underbelly that leads to church steeples being built and wires being worn will disappear.

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    • No offense, man, but you’ve somehow managed to ignore what shoe company reps are going to jail for.

      Also, don’t forget that LSU was promoting Ben Simmons to its season ticket holders before he set foot on campus.

      If the hype is there, somebody will pay for it. Guaranteed.

      Liked by 1 person

    • CB

      You don’t think companies in Valdosta Georgia or Odessa Texas would pay a couple hundred dollars to the local runningback who’s packing out the stadium every Friday night? I do, and I also have no problem with it.

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      • That’s different than having that same kid appear in a commercial on the local channel endorsing your business. I have no doubt that what you describe happens all over the US every Friday night. I don’t have a problem with it.

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  3. AJ

    Russia would interfere

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  4. DawgByte

    We’ve explained it ad nauseam.

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  5. Derek

    Because I’m not stupid enough to think this is how it would actually look.

    Even if you effectively prevented potential signees from being exposed to this, every program will be trying to drive home the point that it provides the most money, bling, products, benefits, etc… to its players and at all times. It would be a market-free, bidding war clusterfuck.

    If the deals could be cut in advance of the LOI it would be even worse.

    That anyone would think this would lead to disciplined, market-based decisions is amazing to me. This would be no different whatsoever than telling colleges you can just hand recruits wads of cash to get their signatures.

    If you liked Big 8 football in the 1980’s, you’ll love this.

    I’d much prefer conference wide, equally distributed stipends over this third party compensation model.

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    • Even if you effectively prevented potential signees from being exposed to this, every program will be trying to drive home the point that it provides the most money, bling, products, benefits, etc… to its players and at all times. It would be a market-free, bidding war clusterfuck.

      Just like the COA stipend’s played out, eh?

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      • Derek

        They put those on the open market or reached into their own pockets on that one?

        Also, the terms of those required some degree of connection to their purpose. Finally, they had to be provided to every player in the same amount. I assume the cross country runners get them too.

        Lots of reasons that didn’t get out of hand.

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    • CB

      Kids are already paid. Did you buy your season tickets to Berry yet?

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      • Derek

        The free market is all good and fine in many settings. In some settings and circumstances, things break down.

        The reason the pro leagues have survived and thrived is that they’ve taken a lot of the free market out of the equation in the name of what’s good for all is what’s good for the league.

        It does no one any good for the Bills to go belly up and then have to find a replacement for them and then rinse and repeat. Conferences act similarly save Texas which hasn’t exactly been a good thing for the Big 12.

        I just don’t know that you can have healthy, competitive college football with third party payors in the mix. I don’t think they’re distributed well and I know they won’t act rationally.

        So the question for me isn’t do the idiot bammers deserve to flush their cash on some hot recruit OR whether that hot recruit should be enriched thereby. The question for me is what does the sport look like under such a scenario?

        I really, truly believe that you’re never going to outbid Alabama for any player it really wants.

        If you want all those five stars that CKS has signed the last 4 years playing for Alabama then you’re promoting the perfect recipe for it.

        So I have selfish reasons and I have rational reasons to not have a lot of optimism about this 3rd party payor proposal.

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        • CB

          We already have 3rd party payors and Georgia as a state has a lot more money than Alabama. Like I said last week, Bama isn’t the big spender you need to worry about and new money isn’t going to magically materialize out of nowhere if the market legitimized.

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          • Derek

            So Albert Means’ high school coach getting 150k under the table 20 plus years ago is not indicative of what bammer boosters with money will do to sign a DT?

            Sure.

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            • CB

              It’s indicative of what they already do, and while they do sign many of the best recruits they don’t get all of them. So you can rest easy.

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              • Derek

                If you say so…

                I guess I’ll trust in your nascent infallibility.

                I would note that if you’re convinced this is already going why you support change in the name of status quo, but why get common sense and rationality involved? What good have they ever done anyone?

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                • CB

                  I just want to bring to whole thing above ground and eliminate the middle men as well as the NCAA violations that have cost Georgia some of its greatest stars for long stretches during seasons that ultimately ended in disappointment.

                  My point of view is based only on fact. You’re the one living in the fantasy land of mandatory high school drafts and Alabama’s magical stash of hidden money that apparently it will only use in the event players can be paid legally even though they could definitely use that money to the advantage of the program under the current system.

                  If your argument is that people in Alabama are too stupid to figure that out I guess I would be less inclined to disagree. Otherwise you’re not making any sense.

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                • Derek

                  Not sure if you realize it, but right now Julio Jones’s car dealership in Tuscaloosa can’t give a recruit a free car and write it off as a business expense, stupid.

                  But you think that’s “magic?”

                  Whatever.

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                • CB

                  You must not have have been paying attention to the cars football players drove when you were at Georgia. Even if that didn’t happen (which is definitely definitely definitely does) there are car dealerships in Athens as well… if you weren’t aware.

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                • Derek

                  Again, why change it if it’s standard operating procedure?

                  To the extent there is structural cheating you would have prominent players getting the most and the rest of the guys getting a little support to keep them happy. You know, market compensation. Why do we need a fix?

                  That said if things were really that rampant, what the fuck was Todd doing with Mr. Gator fan trying to get just that very few bucks that dozens of Athens alums would have happily handed him if he’d asked?

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                • Cojones

                  What’s to keep the Auburn “donors” from sweetening the pot past whatever the advertiser pays in order to sway a recruit? It’s just stacking shit on shit when it comes to their bag man getting there before anyone else because they are already accomplished in that dirty arena.

                  This open talk of paying under the table (udt) could hit home if we find some alum has greased the palm of a revered player at UGA. I’m interested in how many know or think they know of such shenanigans having approached the bag stage at UGA? Whenever you recruit as well as Kirby in this udt age, the more other jealous schools cast aspersions. My naïve belief is that neither UGA, Bama nor Clemson are guilty of this now (because they don’t have to), but to consider that recruiting excellence continuing unabated in a world of bidding and giving money openly may be even more naïve.

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                • CB

                  I work in junior college and can tell you with 100% certainty that even small basketball schools shell out money for recruits.

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        • Mark Emmert

          Derek’s on point. Voluntary exchange is a bad thing. Allowing schools and players to negotiate freely would lead to chaos. Thank God we have the smartest guys in the room on the mother. Don’t worry. We have to limit these kids’ options for their own good. The fact that we get rich is just a happy accident. Pay no attention, plebes.

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  6. Morris Day

    I have been convinced the endorsement route would be the best way to go. Seems to me the best of both worlds, the colleges aren’t directly paying players and each player would be able to earn from endorsements what the market would bear. I do think to begin with there would be some ridiculous offers made/given, but the market would eventually normalize.

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    • Cojones

      As surely as we are writing here the Fords will compete for the same guy’s endorsement with some other school who convinces a Lamborghini dealership to offer.

      There are thousands of ways to play such a system and I expect that some are already given to creative payments for advertising services that will bring a 5-star to their campus.

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  7. ASEF

    There would be companies making business decisions on some of these players name and likeness.

    But there are also going to be boosters making emotional decisions and local entities with more on the line than next quarter’s bottom line. That 5 star who is the missing link to a #1 recruiting class for either Kirby or Saban? Leverage. Big time leverage. And when he signs a $1 million endorsement deal with Mercedes? Or Alabama Retirement Systems? Are we going to be ok with that?

    I think ultimately the answer is yes, but it’s a hard line for fans to cross.

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    • We just had donors pony up $60 million for a nice place to host recruits. I don’t think that line is going to be as tough to cross as you think.

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      • ASEF

        “Fans” being the people who comment here and other team blogs but who are never going to fund (directly) recruits or player compensation. I agree, Georgia is in that top group of “haves” and is never going to find itself relegated to second tier in that realm. But it does create avenues for people like Haslam, who bleeds orange and owns a NFL team and has some serious gas&sip cash flow, to get very “creative” in their approach to recruiting. Fans can easily see how an Alabama or Tennessee might get a leg up on some key recruits (because, you know, they already cheat and play that game) and imagine their team would struggle to keep up (because, you know, our team doesn’t do that kind of stuff).

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        • Derek

          It would be insane. Add Phil Knight, T. Boone, Mr. Yella wood and an untold number of business owners would love to write off some business expenses to help out.

          It would explode and then implode as the have nots see the pointlessness of trying to keep up.

          The remaining programs willing and able to survive would amount to the size of the AAF.

          What would really be fun is when a guy like D Bake goes from decent recruit to best corner in the country and wants to enter re-negotiations of his terms of enrollment. Or enter the transfer portal to see what’s out there.

          Winning!

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  8. So I’m wondering how the recruiting arms race will change. Basically wouldn’t there be a recruiting bidding war? Maybe not unlike money pushed at politicians for their election? Or would you only allow sponsorship until after a recruit is signed and then still regulate recruiting? Part of the recruiting pitch would also be the amount of $$ you could make with sponsorship at the school too? Sorry…haven’t really looked into this that closely.

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    • Go Dawgs!

      Sounds like something that would really benefit the student athletes who are trying to peddle their wares. What exactly is the problem with that?

      A lot of free market capitalists become socialists when their sports teams or leagues get involved in the equation. Everyone has to have the same chance to get a player! No, they don’t have to have the same chance, nor have they ever had the same chance.

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  9. Rchris

    Don’t appear in school gear or mention the school in the ad and it’s OK. Just a kid making a living off his brand, which hopefully includes more than just sports (think Magician’s Hat or Star Wars). If everything is done in good faith.

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  10. St. Johns Dawg

    No problem with any system that will pay players, either through endorsements or larger COA stipends. That is, until recruits stop coming to “your” school … Then the overwhelming response will be “WE NEED TO PAY MORE … WE ARE LOSING TOP NOTCH TALENT TO OLE MISS!!!”. 🙂

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  11. I know the local businesses would not really be spending this money to promote products any more than incidentally, but the point about the Tebow/Cams of the world probably would be trying to move product with those level of stars. this, of course, underestimates the pettiness of (southern) college football fans. Cam Newton products would immediately be banned in my household (Unless it’s something vital to existence – ChickFilA commercials airing in Atlanta where they scream WAR EAGLE at the end probably not the best idea – almost made me give up spicy chicken).

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  12. Dylan Dreyer's Booty

    “The only football players of recent vintage who compare are Johnny Manziel, Cam Newton and Tim Tebow.”

    That statement made me cringe a little because it just means Mickey wins again. But I am okay with the rest of it.

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  13. FlyingPeakDawg

    The best crimes are those that happen right under your nose. Letting kids make a few bucks for a local business ad is a great way for the schools to continue to gorge on the TV and merchandising money and not share a dime.

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  14. 69Dawg

    This goes back to an old UGA t-shirt but what do you think GA Power would pay the offensive line for a spot showing off the real “GEORGIA POWER COMPANY”.

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  15. Got Cowdog

    Am I the only one who noticed the Trevor Lawrence snark in that article?
    Pert plus and Pantene. Well done, Andy!

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  16. Go Dawgs!

    I really think that Andy Staples is underestimating his list of college athletes who could actually make money off of their image. It’s true that there aren’t a lot of college stars with Zion Williamson’s star power, but even just on a regional basis, I think there are a lot of players who could make a lot of money.

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    • Derek

      Under this proposed system you’re not getting a good player if he ain’t making bank. And he’ll take the best monetary offer every time. Why wouldn’t he?

      And again when a kid exceeds his expectations he’s going to enter into renegotiations and/or check out the grass on the other side in the portal.

      In fact, a guy like Deion could easily say “about this upcoming national championship game? Man, I got this ankle that’s been acting up….if I had say, half a million to rub on it I think it will feel so so much better…. Otherwise, I may have to protect my future earnings. Go pass the bag guys. Show me the love!”

      So many possibilities to fall in love with here.

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      • Cojones

        We can buy career football insurance for those players in those games now, can’t we? I thought at one point that bowl sponsors could already do that.

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  17. whb209

    We are not going to convince Senator that this is not a good idea, so we should just reply, “You are correct”. If we do this every time he post something about paying players (which is about every day) maybe he would stop and return to posting about football at UGA. Things like spring practice, off season conditioning and coaching changes. I might be wrong, but it would be worth a try. I might be kicked off of this entire site for suggesting this. If I am, I would like to tell you guys how much I enjoyed all of the replies and post that concerned the game of football.

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