Category Archives: It’s Just Bidness

“They’re becoming these public personas at these universities, and why not capitalize on that?”

The NCAA won’t let a student-athlete make money on his or her likeness, but there’s no rule against protecting them.

Like their counterparts in the pros, more college football stars are starting to snatch up trademark rights to their names, nicknames and fan slogans.

The NCAA generally forbids its players from cashing in on their athletic success, but by gaining legal ownership of phrases tied to their personal brands, players can pave the way for lucrative licensing deals in the future and can prevent others from exploiting their names.

This month, Ohio State University running back Ezekiel Elliott applied for trademarks to use his nicknames “Zeke” and “Eze” on merchandise, according to records in a public database kept by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Elliott also filed for a trademark on the restaurant name “Zeke’s Crop Top Bar and Grill,” a nod to the junior’s preference to roll his jersey up like a crop top. Elliott was unavailable for comment, and his father declined to explain the trademarks.

At Mississippi State University, quarterback Dak Prescott applied for the trademark on his name last fall, along with “Dak Attack” and “Who Dak,” phrases that fans have waved aloft on game-day signs.

It’s unclear to me where this is headed.  Obviously, it could mean more in a post-O’Bannon world, but we’re not there yet.  The article mentions that some schools have begun suggesting that their star athletes take steps to protect their names.  There’s also this:

Many universities, meanwhile, have stopped selling jerseys with the numbers of current players, in part because of legal concerns.

Hilbert predicts that, as universities shine the spotlight away from individual athletes, more players will step in to take ownership of their own brands.

“It’s a gradual move toward commercializing the sport,” Hilbert said. “As the demarcation between amateurism and professionalism further erodes, you’re going to see these guys get even more savvy about branding matters.”

It makes you wonder if we’ll see a day when a star athlete takes steps to preclude his school (or the NCAA) from using his name or likeness in a promotion.

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Old amateurism in new bottles

Yeah, this ought to go over well.

That sound you hear is recruiters clearing their throats.  (Jeffrey Kessler doesn’t make noise when he grins wolfishly.)

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UPDATE:  Last word goes to Stewart Mandel.

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UPDATE #2:  Good grief, they’ve got a track record fining kids at VaTech.

If Virginia Tech winds up in a bowl game this season, strong safety Aaron Rouse might need to ask some teammates for a loan.

Rouse was penalized 15 yards for a personal foul — his third of the season — near the end of the first quarter in Saturday’s game. Under the discipline system coach Frank Beamer instituted at the start of the season, Rouse will have to pay for his penalties. Players who commit personal fouls or unsportsmanlike conduct penalties will be fined $100 from their bowl stipend and will have to run 1,500 yards at 6 a.m. on the Wednesday after the game.

“You just can’t retaliate,” Beamer said. “You go back in the huddle and let’s play football. We know better and (personal fouls) aren’t going to happen. I think that’s another $100 and another Wednesday morning (for Rouse).”

What would have happened if the Hokies hadn’t gone bowling?

You can’t get cynical enough about college football these days.

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It’s almost like they want us to stay home and watch it on the tube.

Groo notes the rising cost of attendance.

Are fans showing some sensitivity to price? While Georgia fans can buy a 7-game season slate of home tickets for $315, it’ll cost nearly that much just to attend the three games mentioned above. Auburn raised their single-game ticket price to $115 for Georgia and Alabama, up from $95 two years ago. Tennessee wants $95 for a Georgia ticket. The Florida game has seen a steady increase from $40 just over five years ago to $70 now. That’s $280 just for those three games.

Apparently, it’s not just our fans who are being asked to give more.

Georgia fans aren’t the only ones weighing the decision to purchase expensive tickets. Hartman Fund donors received an e-mail on Tuesday with the news that South Carolina had returned a limited number of $80 tickets.

At some point, there ain’t enough WiFi in the world to give us sufficient bang for the buck.  I guess they’ll worry about that day when it comes.

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Amateurs at amateurism

Well, with COA and unlimited food budgets, college athletic departments are off to the races providing their student-athletes with sensible financial support.

Yeah, right.

Schulz added that “there was a little bit of trust involved” in making the changes. Using the introduction of unlimited meals and snacks as an example, he said schools had to ignore worries that “if we let everybody do that, maybe somebody’s going fly lobsters from Maine every evening for their football team. At some point, you’ve got to say, ‘If people are going to do that, they’re going to do that and let’s not worry about it.’ ”

But worries are being raised. Within the broader higher-education community, there is concern about pressure being put on financial aid officers, whose decisions about schools’ cost-of-attendance figures can impact student debt levels…

Noooo.  That can’t be happening, can it?  Oh, yes, it can.

SEC schools are additionally working through a set of reporting requirements designed to bring transparency to their cost-of-attendance calculations. At the NCAA convention in January, the SEC proposed that these rules apply to all NCAA schools, but it was voted down. In May, the conference’s schools adopted them anyway.

They begin from the principle that cost of attendance for all students is supposed to be based on budgets determined under federal guidelines by financial aid office staffers, who also have the authority to use what the U.S. Department of Education terms “professional judgment” to provide upward variances on a case-by-case basis.

By July 15 each year, SEC schools must provide the conference office with their cost-of-attendance figures and methodology, as well as certification from their campus CEO and senior financial aid officer that both have reviewed and approved the report.

Then, at the end of each term, they have to submit information to the SEC about each student who has been granted an individual increase in their cost-of-attendance budget based on “professional judgment.”

Justin Draeger, the president and CEO of National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, said he is “disappointed that has not been adopted among all the institutions. Transparency is integral to this going forward.”

Justin, are you kidding?  This is the SEC we’re talking about.

Draeger said he doesn’t have any evidence of an athletics department manipulating cost-of-attendance numbers or pressuring a financial aid office to do the same.

What he does have is “an enormous amount of newly found interest in how schools come up with their cost of attendance,” he said, “and it’s not just coming from the athletic department. It’s coming from the board or trustees or the president’s office in relation to how their cost of attendance compares to (those of) other schools within their conference.

“So I think it’s too soon to tell whether pressure ultimately will be brought to bear.”

Oh, they’re interested alright.  But you’re going to be disappointed when you find out what kind of pressure those folks are bringing.

The irony of people fretting about what an 18-year old kid is going to spend his stipend on while colleges breezily manipulate data allowing them to spend more and more millions on sports shouldn’t escape anyone’s attention.  But, who am I kidding here?

“Hey, stop him – he’s about to waste $400 bucks on an Xbox!”

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Just your typical student

Part of college football’s power over us comes from what I call the romance of amateurism, the idea that the kids we see on television and cheer on in our stadiums are in school for the same reason our next-door neighbor’s son is, and that, outside of those game days when we connect with them, they lead the same lives.  It’s an ideal that the NCAA and the schools have done their damnedest to exploit to their profit.

But it’s nothing more than a convenient fiction.

Unless you think this is the kind of thing every college kid utters about himself…

“I’m here to serve the people,” sophomore running back Sony Michel said. “They’re fans and if they ask for something, I’m willing to give them my autograph. It’s no big deal.”

… while in almost the same breath his head coach is close to calling for an outright ban on the practice.

“You’re just about to the point where you say don’t sign anything for anybody,” coach Mark Richt said. “But that’s tough. I don’t think we can get to that point. But if you are doing it for pay, then you are wrong and you just shouldn’t do it.”

That isn’t to say Richt is a hypocrite.  He’s only pointing out the consequences of living with the risk of violating NCAA norms. Sadly, between the Green and Gurley suspensions, he’s the closest thing we’ll find to an expert on the subject.

But it’s not just about autographs and some money on the side.  More than anything else, it’s about control.

At Clemson, Dabo Swinney has banned his players from social media during football season.

Don’t expect to see any tweets, snapchats or Facebook posts from the Clemson Tigers the next few months.

As has become standard practice, the Tigers’ social media ban went into effect on Aug. 3, reportsUSA Today.

Players are not required to delete or deactivate their accounts, but are “forbidden” from being active on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or other social media during the season, according to the report.

The ban is intended to keep players’ focus on football as opposed to the outside world.

Now some of you may applaud this as a necessary or wise step.  But if that’s the case, why is focus only important for players during football season? Why doesn’t Clemson apply such a ban to all students attending school on full scholarships, or all of its enrollees?  For that matter, if the academic mission of a school is as important as the athletic one, why doesn’t Swinney ban his players from social media during the entire school year? (And while I’m asking, if you’re the parent of a child attending college and you approve of what Swinney has done, have you imposed such a ban?)

Whatever happened to letting kids learn a few life lessons from their experiences along the way?  Isn’t that supposed to be part of a college education?  What’s the point of treating twenty-somethings, people close to having to step out and make it in the real world, in the way we’d treat our eight-year old daughter?

It happens because they’re football players, because their coaches make millions of dollars a year and because those coaches think that control equals accountability (for them, not their players).  All of which may be true, but has nothing to do with the way the average college student is allowed to lead his or her life.

Another thing to keep in mind here is that those of us outside the arena don’t see student-athletes as mere students.

Carter and teammate Jake Ganus said the attention they get is nothing compared to that of running back Nick Chubb.

Even some of the other players get extra attention simply for knowing Chubb.

“I’m not Nick Chubb, but I am Nick Chubb’s friend,” Ganus said.

Chubb is aware of the public persona that comes with being a star on the Georgia football team. He likes having the ability to have his peace and quiet every so often.

“That’s part of job,” Chubb said. “You come here to be a football player, but other things come with it and that’s one of it. People want to see me and greet me and I enjoy it. But sometimes I just like to fall back into the shadows.”

Just like… I’ll let you finish the sentence there.

But it’s not just us fans who are guilty of that.  The schools themselves, the purveyors of amateurism romance, are just as bad in their own way.

Unless you think that Tennessee paints rocks for every kid who applies there.

Believe it or not, my point isn’t that this is why players deserve to be paid.  It’s that the system surrounding them is corrupt and hypocritical. The NCAA and its member schools try to straddle a divide of amateur innocence on one side and big money with big demands on student-athletes on the other.  And it’s a gap that grows ever wider as more money flows into the system and raises the stakes.  The romance isn’t sustainable, and the sooner we realize that, the less we’ll be hurt by the sport’s changes.

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“Yeah, anytime I can get a little bit more money in pocket, it is exciting.”

Several Georgia players are included in the class action group scheduled to receive payment from EA Sports for use of their likenesses in its NCAA Football video game.  Will some of you think less of ’em for that?

The funny thing is the kids would like to see the game return for the obvious reasons.

Theus played the game often growing up and would like to see it return. He says the game still has a huge following, and if the NCAA can work out a deal where the college football players are compensated for their likeness and image it could be a win for both sides.

“Whoever wants to play the game can play it, they [EA and the NCAA] can make money off of it, and guys can get a little more cash,” Theus said. “If they work something out, it would be awesome.”

EA Sports has already said it would be willing to resume production of the game and pay the kids for their likenesses.  But amateurism is in the fans’ best interests, right?

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“Would you be willing to pay $25 or so per month for ESPN?”

Andy Staples looks at how college football broadcasts will be delivered to consumers in the future and asks a lot of questions that the people running the P5 conferences ought to be asking themselves today…

It’s quite possible that rights fees have hit their zenith, and athletic departments need to prepare for the fact that their revenue is not going to grow at the rate it has over the past 15 years. It might even dip as viewers adjust to a new world and figure out how they want to pay for it.

Chances are we’ll end up paying about what we pay now to watch college football in 10 years. But we’ll be far more aware of how much we pay, and we’ll be sending that money to different places. That’s why Iger’s comments should have every athletic director and conference commissioner thinking about how their leagues are positioned for their next deals.

… but probably aren’t.  Hey, it’s not like there’s a crisis this second, right?

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