Ivan Maisel wrote an excellent piece tracking the history of the NCAA’s stance against compensating college athletes for their NIL rights. Two things in particular are worth mentioning from it.
First, Walter Byers, of all people suggested this back in 1985:
In 1985, eight years before EA Sports brought its first NCAA video game to market, the NCAA Council and Executive Committee received a memo recommending that student-athletes be allowed to make product endorsements. What radical section of the NCAA community had the temerity to make that suggestion? The Mark Emmert of the day, the NCAA’s first executive director, Walter Byers…
As he prepared to retire, Byers proposed that the endorsement income go into a trust fund from which athletes would draw upon graduation or the completion of their eligibility.
“I earnestly hope that the membership does not take a righteous stand in favor of old-time amateur principles for the athlete, but modern-day commercial involvement for coaches and institutions, and somehow expect a relatively small NCAA enforcement crew to keep the situation clean,” Byers wrote.
That’s what proactive looks like, Mark Emmert. Not that it matters now.
Two, most of the NCAA’s pearl clutching is silly.
So why did the NCAA waste time, money and power clutching its pearls over NIL? There are hurdles that involve labor law and Title IX, issues that can be skirted if the NIL mechanism is carefully constructed. Then, there are the bogus issues, such as the claim that tension in the locker room will rise when the quarterback makes more money than the offensive linemen who keep him upright.
Two things come to mind here:
One, don’t you think players talented enough to play guard in Division I have figured out by now that quarterbacks will get more attention than they do?
Two, for nearly four decades, professional athletes in one sport are allowed to remain collegiate amateurs. Kyler Murray signed with the Oakland A’s for $9 million in 2018, then played quarterback for Oklahoma. As you recall, Murray’s wealth generated so much jealousy among the Sooners’ offensive linemen that Murray won the Heisman Trophy.
Maisel concludes by noting, “Somehow, the NCAA is chasing the parade it should be leading.” It’s hard to give up that money — unless the politicians are forcing your hand.