Weird scenes inside the sausage factory

Some of you like to argue with me that player compensation is the bright line that’s going to ruin college athletics.  If you’re one of those folks, you may not want to read this article.

… This was the year when athletic departments exposed themselves for what they really are: large businesses covered in nonprofit wrapping paper.

A coronavirus pandemic forced the whole enterprise to announce its priorities, which are even more skewed than we realized. There are thousands of people working in college athletics with excellent priorities, of course—people who value academics, relationships, integrity and personal growth. But those are not the qualities the NCAA system rewards. College sports, purportedly a celebration of amateur athletics, are an exercise in big squashing little: large conferences whipping small ones, and revenue sports hogging resources from nonrevenue sports.

… Universities are supposed to practice egalitarianism, or at least aspire to it. Future CEOs and artists share a campus, and that coexistence is an essential piece of the experience. This is especially true at state flagship universities, which are (or at least aspire to be) magnets for the finest students from all over the state.

And college athletics are supposedly the sporting version of this. For decades, administrators insisted that monetizing football and men’s basketball was a means toward a larger, more noble end: funding other varsity sports. As those NCAA commercials love to remind us, the overwhelming majority of athletes “go pro in something other than sports.”

In 2020, though, it became obvious that the apparatus that was supposed to support a larger infrastructure has overwhelmed it instead. Around the country, schools responded to their budget crunches by slashing nonrevenue sports, like huge law firms deciding to cut costs by slashing pro bono work.

College sports have been a hypocritical enterprise for a long time; any sober assessment of the last half-century reached that conclusion. But now hypocrisy is part of the mission statement. Football has been stripped down to what it really is: lucrative TV programming. In 2020, it didn’t matter whether playing was safe for surrounding communities or even whether students were on campus.

COVID has exposed college football for what it is:  a commercial enterprise, nothing more, nothing less.  Not that there weren’t plenty of hints and clues dropped along the way over the past two decades;  it’s just raw and completely out in the open now.  Combine that with the general cluelessness that your typical athletics administrator possesses…

Not everybody can win, but everybody can be obsessed, and everybody can market obsession. That is the prominent business model in college sports: Prove to your customers that you are as irrationally committed as they are. Schools are far more likely to be criticized for not paying obscene salaries to football coaches than for doing so. Which is why coaches’ salaries keep going up. These investments are so speculative, and so detached from the underlying economics, that it feels foolish to call them investments at all.

… and that’s how you wind up with Jimmy Sexton kicking ass every day and twice on Sundays.  In other words, there’s nothing left to ruin.

I can’t stop some of you from continuing to be amateurism romantics, but you’re making bigger fools of yourselves with the passage of every year.

60 Comments

Filed under It's Just Bidness, The NCAA

60 responses to “Weird scenes inside the sausage factory

  1. gotthepicture

    A bit of a different perspective from the poop Dan Wetzel is shoveling today: https://us.yahoo.com/sports/how-to-fix-the-college-football-playoff-problem-210911186.html
    But Dan’s been mostly a 1-trick-pony for at least a decade… expansion, expansion, expansion.
    I love his suggestion that having FSU, Texas, USC and Tennessee returning to prominence by playing in an expanded playoff. Geez, maybe if those teams didn’t largely suck over the duration of the CFP, they would return to prominence. Or better yet, if they didn’t have a bunch of @$$clowns running their athletic departments and had managed things better, they wouldn’t have been mired in one bad personnel decision after another.

    Like

  2. This rambling opinion piece–which is very hard to read because of all the popups, because you know it’s all about the $$$–actually makes several points with which I agree. Buyouts for football coaches are obscene, and new facilities replacing new facilities are another waste of money.

    Like

  3. Gaskilldawg

    Power 5 football and men’s basketball programs are businesses that don’t have to pay taxes, don’t have to pay market rates for production employees and don’t have to pay market rent for state owned facilities. Nothing romantic about that to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ran A

    Full Disclosure, I didn’t read the entire article, scanned it and took a look at the numbers.

    Three Points:
    Correct, College Athletics is big business. Bigger the school/conference – the bigger the business.

     I did not see where Title 9 was even mentioned in this article.  This is straight from the NCAA website - woman's sports puts a financial burden on any school that has anywhere close to equal enrollment of men vrs. woman or an even larger enrollment of women to men.  The national average for the last 6 years has been 57% woman to 43% men.  Just checked UGA - right in line, with 57% being woman and 43% being men. (Note that Tech is 63% men to  37% woman, so while they struggle - it has nothing to do with supporting womens programs.
    

    An institution must meet all of the following requirements in order to be in compliance with Title IX:

    For participation requirements, institutions officials must meet one of the following three tests. An institution may:
    Provide participation opportunities for women and men that are substantially proportionate to their respective rates of enrollment of full-time undergraduate students;
    Demonstrate a history and continuing practice of program expansion for the underrepresented sex;
    Fully and effectively accommodate the interests and abilities of the underrepresented sex; and,
    Female and male student-athletes must receive athletics scholarship dollars proportional to their participation; and,
    Equal treatment of female and male student-athletes in the eleven provisions as mentioned above.
    With the first point being a given and the second point being a fact of life, a University must plan and budget just like anyone else. If you want a big football program, where you are supplying scholarships for 85 players at the University of Georgia, then you have to supply 112 full scholarships for women sports. (If I am interpreting this correctly).

    So how does Georgia do it?

    8 Mens Sports
    11 Woman’s Sports
    67 Members of the Equestrian Team – 3 Coaches ( I know nothing about this sport – but this feels woefully short in players to coaches ratio).

    (I’m too lazy to go through the rest of the sports). But if you want to know why Georgia doesn’t have a mens soccer team, in a state that has some of the best competition in the country – this is it.

    Synopsis – Football carries just about everyone else. Without looking, I do not think there is one sport on the woman’s side that pays for itself and maybe only basketball on the men’s side that does. It is one of the reasons that Georgia is so conservative with their funding. It isn’t just football that relies on how that revenue and how the funds are managed. It’s the entire athletic department. And please do not interpret this as an indictment on woman’s sports. I’m 100% behind it. It’s just a financial fact of life that should not go over-looked.

    Conclusion:

    Draw your own damn conclusions. The burden is clear. Should football players be paid – I think the obvious answer is yes. Where I differ from the Senator (I think), is that I believe that there should be caps and controls in place to keep this from spiraling completely out of control. (If the NFL and NBA cannot function without caps – then I can guarantee you that the NCAA cannot). But are these athletes being properly compensated for what they are supporting today (at least above the table). Simple answer is ‘no’.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “Over the summer, after numerous Black players accused the Iowa football team’s strength coach, Chris Doyle, of mistreatment, the school agreed to pay him $1.3 million to leave. (Doyle denied the allegations.) Two months later, the Hawkeyes cut men’s gymnastics, men’s tennis and men’s and women’s swimming and diving because of a budget crunch. Unlike Doyle, several of the women’s swimmers are suing (on Title IX grounds)—and last week they were granted an injunction that keeps the team alive for now.”

      Liked by 1 person

    • Ran A

      Some of the reply did not take. One key point. The average student ratio for the last 5 years has been 57% women and 43% men. UGA is right in line with those stats. That ratio has changed over the last decade, increasing the burden on revenue sports to cover non-revenue, since very few schools actually profit off of women sports programs.

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      • Ran A

        Last comment – If I am interpreting any of this incorrectly, please feel free to correct me. I want this to be 100% accurate. For the record the data is spot on.

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    • PTC DAWG

      Point being, if you kill football, you kill all scholarships…

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    • HirsuteDawg

      One problem I see – why cap the kids payments and leave the coaching salaries at the obscene levels we see at the major universities? Is Gus Malzon worth the millions Auburn is paying him not to coach? Was he worth the millions he was payed when he did coach Auburn? Kirby has been a good/great coach for Georgia – but should we be paying any employee what we are paying him for coaching? I’m NOT complaining about his coaching / the team / number of wins / you name it – I’m saying what many colleges are paying their head coaches (and some coordinators) is not justified or conscionable.

      Liked by 2 people

    • “by slashing nonrevenue sports, like huge law firms deciding to cut costs by slashing pro bono work.” Somehow I do not see how removing revenue from the schools would help this situation.

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  5. Derek

    I like to argue that college football and basketball have lost their way and that player compensation, based upon NIL or other unequal distributions methods, will make it worse, not better.

    I have zero problem with a flat across the board payment that applies to all scholarship athletes at a given school.

    Much would be solved if the colleges stopped admitting morons and
    “one and dones.” The kids that want and need the scholly as a path to a college degree aren’t the ones complaining. Its the ones who see college as an annoying weigh station on their way to the pros who feel exploited. And they’re not wrong. That problem is easily fixed by letting those guys go play juco.

    They’ll feel much better about themselves and the world. And who knows, maybe someone will decide that they need to educate these talented kids in middle and high school rather than just passing them through because thats just easier.

    That change would seem to be a win/win for everyone.

    Inasmuch as buying teenagers has an appeal for some, it doesn’t seem to me to be optimal.

    Liked by 2 people

    • classiccitycanine

      Well, this is the real world bud. Zion Williamson and Trevor Lawrence aren’t going to community college no matter how much you complain about how the professionally-destined players are ruining the sport( an absurd claim by the way). Let me know when you’re the president of UGA so we can tell Kirby to stop recruiting blue-chippers and start holding tryouts for the freshmen students on Legion Field.

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      • Derek

        Where did I say what you say I said?

        I don’t care if a college player dreams of playing in the league. Ambition is good. A very few will make enough in the league so that working is not necessary. Good for them.

        I do care where there is a confluence of:

        School: Fuck it if the kid doesn’t get a degree. We’re here to make money and win games. Put the kid in general studies and make sure his tutor gets the work done so he stays eligible.
        Player: I dont give a fuck about getting a degree. I’m here because the pros won’t take me yet.

        As far as I know Trevor will leave with a degree and would have been admitted on academic merit. If Zion blows an achilles would he have gotten a degree at Duke? Was he a good student? No idea.

        My problem isn’t with good players. My problem is with kids on campus who either don’t belong and/or don’t want to be there and the schools who use their talents for cash. My problem is with 65 or so Georgia players thinking they are playing in the NFL and that ain’t happening. We have a most a couple of dozen guys who will cash a nfl check and maybe 12 who will make a 53 man roster for two to three seasons. Are the rest going to be ready for the real world? Did their high schools pass them through because they were a star and players don’t need to meet high academic standards to get into college? Is that a disservice to them? Would local schools try harder if they knew that playing on national tv at georgia, clemson or alabama will take talent AND academic achievement? Would that effort make those schools better from top to bottom?

        There is nothing stopping the ncaa or the conferences from adopting admissions policies that would be more commiserate with only admitting kids with a chance of being successful in school without being hand held 24/7 by an AD employee.

        There is nothing stopping them from ensuring academic progress. All you need is for the academic side to take preference over the greed.

        When is the last (only?) time you’ve heard of an Auburn football player being academically ineligible? We’ve kicked two starters off campus before their senior seasons (P. Oliver and C. King) for failure to progress. Thats not to mention the slew of bowl ineligibilities we’ve seen over the years.

        Auburn? Not one. Not a single one.

        Thats not possible.

        They ARE being used. Making it worse by buying and selling them, while arguably more economically “fair” doesn’t address the main issue which is that the colleges are too often using these guys for their greed machine.

        Creating a player based greed machine of their own may feel good for some, but it will ultimately create even more problems.

        Liked by 1 person

        • sundiatagaines

          I agree with a lot of this.

          The NCAA should raise admission standards to be somewhat on par with general student population. They should do that out of principle, no other incentive should be needed.

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        • junkyardawg41

          I agree — everyone wants to go after the NCAA as the reason we are in this predicament. The reality is the the NCAA is the LLC of Universities and Colleges. People like to talk about the business of college athletics without touching the business of college education. Take for instance the cost of attendance at USCw. The Cost of Attendance is $79,000 per year. (https://financialaid.usc.edu/undergraduates/prospective/how-much-wil-my-education-cost.html) USCw cost to attend has increased 40% since 2010. People want to talk about the exploitation of student athletes but no one talks about the students.

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    • Bay Area Dawg

      The easiest solution would be for the leagues to have a legitimate minor league system in all major sports. Basketball is starting to trend that way with the G League. Football will never let it happen unless the NFL has total control of it and why is the NFL going to fix a problem which in their eyes is not broken,

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      • Kinda doubt the leagues agree with you. 😉

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      • Derek

        That raises an entirely different issue which is whether these kids have inherent value not linked to their school of choice.

        How many would go see just graduated star high school players play in a pro league while Alabama vs. Georgia are playing with lesser athletes who made 1300 SATs?

        We know this answer don’t we?

        More than 95% of a players value is going to be related to the school, not the player. No one would have ever heard of Trevor Lawrence if he chose to play at West Georgia.

        Liked by 2 people

        • More than 95% of a players value is going to be related to the school, not the player.

          And here I thought in a free market setting, a person’s value is whatever he or she receives for it. Stupid me.

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          • Derek

            Everything is simple of you choose to simplify it.

            If you think Trevor Lawrence signs the same NIL contract as a West Georgia Brave as he would as a Clemson Tiger than say that stupid shit.

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            • It doesn’t fucking matter. You keep looking at this as if schools have a property right they’re being forced to share against their will.

              I look at it as college athletes being denied — illegally — their right to earn just like the rest of us do.

              Any way Lawrence goes, he should be paid for being Trevor Lawrence. Period.

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              • Derek

                But he won’t. He’d get paid for being Trevor Lawrence, Clemson Tiger, period.

                To be clear, I’m suggesting that reality is a reason against NIL.

                Its an observation that defeats pro-NIL arguments that:

                Schools are wrong to suggest that they are responsible for whatever value a kid has on the market and/or that players have value independent from the schools they play for.

                To the extent that pro-NIL rights people rest their “fairness” arguments on either or both of those premises, they’re demonstrably wrong. Their ultimate conclusions are wrong for different reasons.

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                • What Derek said.

                  The NIL value of Trevor Lawrence, Clemson University QB, is astronomically more than the NIL value of Trevor Lawrence, Cartersville High alumnus and individual player, working out on his own until he’s age-appropriate for the NFL. So if the NIL value of Trevor Lawrence, Clemson University QB, is $100K/year, how much of that value has been produced by Clemson University? I’d say about 90% of it.

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                • Derek

                  Should have said:

                  “To be clear, I’m “not” suggesting that reality is a reason against NIL.”

                  I just think its a poor argument to suggest that these guys could as effectively monetize their likeness without the 150 year investment the schools have put into their brands.

                  But, if its a pro league…. The Lakers aren’t getting any Lebron money even though LA money is no doubt better than NE Ohio.

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                • mp

                  The NFL brand is worth more than Tom Brady’s brand. He can switch teams and retain value, but if the NFL summarily kicked him out he would be worthless.

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                • Tony BarnFart

                  Derek, I’m not sure exactly where you’re going with the Pro-League / Lebron analogy but I’ve thought about that in regards to NIL. I feel like the distinction between Pro / Am is largely about potentially amending and changing the legal / regulatory framework of major college sports but doesn’t necessarily address the NIL debate in the existing amateur realm from what is fair, proper (or even lawful as this moves through the courts).

                  In other words, does the allocation of Lawrence’s likeness value between Clemson and himself individually rest on merely a technicality that Clemson football has declared itself an amateur enterprise. The Dallas Cowboys have a helluva brand and star-lit quarterback lineage. League regs and contracts aside, should a current QB for the cowboys have to pay enough homage back to Daddy-Jerry for his grand stage so that he’s hardly different from the QB at the Jacksonville Jaguars.

                  Liked by 1 person

                • Derek

                  I think from the colleges view it was the focus on the “brand” that led them monetize the kids on easports.

                  The Cowboys would never consider doing the same.

                  You could spend a long time playing with the distinctions and similarities, but in the end the colleges should not earn money selling their players NIL. Bad idea.

                  That, like a lot of things bad with college football, is due to greedy short sight administrators who’ve lost their way.

                  Digging the hole deeper isn’t a solution in my view. I think we start over with first principles.

                  Why is there such a thing as collegiate athletics?

                  Hint: it ain’t money.

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              • Bay Area Dawg

                Interesting concept though with this is would kids start picking certain schools for potentially larger contracts? I live in the San Francisco Bay Area and college football is not that big at all. A player would make more contract money going to a USC or Oregon on the west coast than say Cal. Wouldn’t this drive even more kids to the top the schools where college football is king and create less parity?

                Just a thought.

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                • mddawg

                  I think it would be a factor, and coaches would be foolish not to incorporate it into their recruiting pitches, but the impact would vary greatly from player to player.

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      • Minor league football has failed every time it’s tried. I would never pay any money or spend any time watching Todd Gurley play minor league football in 2012.

        If the NFL owners could find a way to make money on minor league football, they would have done it years ago.

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        • Bay Area Dawg

          I totally agree the NFL has no reason to start a minor league system. They are the only major sport which has a total monopoly over their sport. Their is only one way to into the NFL and that’s through college football. All other sports have different avenues into their respective leagues. As I stated the next closest is the NBA but you can play in Europe out of HS, you can play in China and you can go straight to the G League. You can make around $100K in the G League if you’re a top prospect out of HS.

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  6. mg4life0331

    As I’ve said before, pay em. I don’t care, but I don’t think the schools should have to foot the bill.

    Tiger made a few million winning gold tournaments. He made a shit ton from Nike. I’m ok with that in college.

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    • I don’t think this analogy holds for college football players, whose identity comes mainly from the team they play for.

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      • Just curious — all things being equal, would you pay someone more whose resume shows a degree from Harvard, or the same degree from Northwest State A&M? Assuming the former, should Harvard expect a cut from the grad’s salary you’re paying?

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        • Apples to oranges, Senator.

          When we discuss payments to college athletes, while they’re still in college, we have to understand that the individual athlete wouldn’t even be “known” by 99% of the public who would fund him, if he weren’t playing in a system that furnishes him first-class facilities, promotes him, coaches him, trains him, houses him, feeds him, furnishes his health care, educates him. If the player were an independent contractor, he’d have to manage all these expenses himself.

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          • Tony BarnFart

            But you could say the same thing about a modern day New York Yankee or Dallas Cowboy who get all of those training and facility perks and whatever they don’t get (housing) is obviously more than offset in direct pay. Then they have all the NIL opportunities that come with being a Yankee or Cowboy.

            I don’t know what the contract said when Derek Jeter did a commercial while wearing a Yankees jersey. Presumably they got a cut. But that’s not the point— if we’re resting on contracts of adhesion where the weaker party has to waive NIL rights (major college football) to distinguish it from other big brands that don’t (pro sports), you may as well just be shouting “BECAUSE AMATEURISM ROMANTIC !”

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  7. benco04

    It’s a paradigm shift all the way around. I’ve long thought that being a Hartman Fund donor was ostensibly no different than buying season tickets for the Falcons. But it’s framed as “for the kids.”

    Ain’t none of this “for the kids.”

    Well, actually, it kind of is. Without the big money on college football, there really isn’t the cash for other sports.

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  8. beatarmy92

    The author is either confused about some things, inconsistent with his values, or just trolling with some of this. I’ve been supportive of player Como for years. Market restrictions create inefficiencies or black markets. Usually both. That aside my gripes about this article:
    1) CFB is a business. Nonprofits do many things that bring in revenue. There’s nothing wrong with this. The author seems opposed to accepting payments for games, but the academic side of universities accept payments for their work with governments, corporations, or other nonprofits all the time. There is nothing inherently wrong with this.
    2) Egalitarianism. He mentions differences in conferences, students, and teams on campus. He creates a straw man standard where supposedly schools are supposed to making all differences in wealth and income between all these things disappear. This isn’t a real thing nor should it be. That’s just old fashioned Marxism. Does he support taking billions from Ivy endowments and spreading it around to the Elons, Mercers, and Troys out there? I doubt it.
    3) Cutting non-revenue sports during C19. This is weird and illogical. He thinks it’s wrong to cut no revenue generating sports when there’s no revenue for them. This isn’t wrong. It’s basic finance: you fund the ops that drive revenue in hard times and reduce those that don’t. It’s just triage.
    4) CFB is a TV business. I agree with him that it is, and I don’t like it but for a different reasons. I don’t think it’s inherently bad as I argued in point #1. I don’t like it simply because I think it will change CFB into a mini-NFL.

    “Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.” —Eric Hoffer.

    We are in stage 2, though CFB was never a great movement. We need to be vigilant that it doesn’t become a racket which means opening the markets for players. I think this should have been the focus for the author. I think this is where he initially headed. He’s just got some learned biases that prevent him from putting together a coherent argument to get there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Market restrictions create inefficiencies

      Nice euphemism for illegal cartel.

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      • beatarmy92

        I’m not sure it’s either legal or a cartel. First, a cartel must control the aggregate supply of something. I’m not sure there is a slam dunk case that an association can be pinpointed who controls CFB. Is it the Power 5? Not really since they’ve included the Group of Five in their bowl and CFP deals (if in name only). Is it the combination of the two? They’re not really centralized enough and don’t seem to agree with each other on much. Maybe it’s just a terribly inefficient cartel? I could make arguments for and against this pretty easily.

        Second, for a cartel or any economic argument that something has monopolistic control over something, it’s long been established that the thing controlled needs to have no good substitutes. There are tons of available subs for CFB. It’d be difficult to argue that 1) there is an identifiable association with sufficient control over a thing and 2) the thing does not have viable substitutes. And who would have standing in this case? Who’s being harmed? Only the players really. They couldn’t sue the conferences since ostensibly they could go Div 2 or 3 if they wanted. That leaves the NCAA. Is that the cartel? Not really since the SCOTUS case in 85 kicked them out of the CFB TV business.

        The NCAA is a terrible and inept org with awful rules that make the game worse. I don’t think pointing that out is a “euphemism” for anything. I’m not sure the NCAA is a cartel, but I think we both agree that it’s current regime and role in CFB is a detriment to the sport.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Ozam

    I’ve been tooting this horn as recently a yesterday. It’s so obvious that college football is a money chase being run by administrators using other people’s money (hence the irrationality).

    I’m not in favor of schools paying the players, but I have a hard time seeing how you can prevent them from being paid by somebody!

    There is no question college football is about to change…. it’s inevitable.

    What concerns me more is the opt outs, quick transfers, etc. College football is the one team sport that has continuity. You have an opportunity to learn the players and watch them grow. I hate to see that disappear.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Bay Area Dawg

      The opt outs is what I am most concerned about. I am afraid more and more players will start opting out once their team is out of contention for a championship.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. NIL is a personal rights issue. A right the kids, collectively, can negotiate to give some control over to the school in exchange for something of value. That value needs to include not just scholarships, stipends, and facilities but a share of the broadcasting & merchandising rights. Problem is…who is negotiating for anything on the side of the kids? I’m guessing this is what a certain judge in the 9th Circuit is wrestling with, giving the NCAA almost every opportunity to step in with a solution yet they completely fail to do so.

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  11. Hobnail_Boot

    Just admit that players are already being compensated. FFS.

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  12. junkyardawg41

    “In April, with the financial reality of a national shutdown settling in, the state university decided to cut its men’s soccer program, saving $726,498. In August, the school bumped football coach Luke Fickell’s annual salary up from $2.3 million to $3.4 million.”
    It laziness like this that frustrates me when we have these discussions. There is the School and there is the Athletic Department. I would think the University would have to sign off on the Athletic Department’s desire to cut it’s men’s soccer program but I doubt the University signs off on a raise for Luke Fickell. Ergo, did the school really bump the football coach’s money up?

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  13. TripleB

    If players could go pro anytime they want and have NIL rights and transfer rights, it seems to me that pay restrictions would be more palatable, legally and morally. They would not be able to claim they were indentured servants. They would only be there if: (1) they wanted to, and (2) they were getting enough money and benefits to make it fair to them.
    You might say the pros wouldn’t go for it, but that could be challenged. It wouldn’t be the schools doing it to the kids. I bet if the NCAA changed their rules, the pros would react. Congress might approach the leagues if colleges were doing the right thing.

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    • You might say the pros wouldn’t go for it, but that could be challenged.

      Not legally as long as there’s a CBA between the union and ownership.

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      • Tony BarnFart

        I’m not an expert on labor relations law. Would there be no avenue of attack, presumably by a 3rd party challenging the entry timing requirement, where both the union and the league are named defendants……or is there a legislative fix that doesn’t require upending 120 years of labor law ?

        I’m probably missing something “duh!” fundamentally.

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