By Aaron Moser
The issue of whether or not NCAA athletes should be able to profit off their likeness, and even be paid by their respective universities, has been a fiery crossroad in the college sports landscape.
The California state legislature re-fueled the fire this week when they passed the “Fair Pay to Play Act,” a bill that would allow California college athletes to market their name, image and likeness as soon as 2023. It is now on Gov. Gavin Newsome’s desk to be signed into law.
Heisman trophy winner and college football legend Tim Tebow appeared on ESPN’s First Take to make an opposing argument to the bill.
“It [college football] just becomes like the NFL, now it’s just who has the most money, who’s going to pay them the most,” Tebow said. “I think you take a lot of the authenticity and realness in college football away.”
He continued to describe how the biggest college football stadiums are bigger than NFL stadiums and how college football fans go to the games because they support their university, not just the team on the field.
Throughout his responses he mentioned the increased passion of college athletics, something he always displayed when he was in the college sports spotlight.
He is absolutely correct when he mentions these things, and especially when he talks about the selfishness that pervades our culture. College athletes who are treated like kings during their recruitment and college careers can become jaded to the idea of buying into team success versus their own personal gain.
However, the NCAA displays time and time again that they can’t be completely trusted to enforce the amateurism model and their rules fairly. The fact is, college coaches at the highest level consistently abuse the rules and offer illegal benefits to lure the highest level of talent.
College basketball and football have been replete with recruiting scandals for decades. The NCAA amateurism model was designed with good intentions, but the ludicrous profits schools and coaches are making off athletes’ talents have destroyed that fabric.
This is where I diverge from Tebow’s arguments. I agree with his view of what college athletics should be, but that is not what it is or will be.
I agree that the highest-level college athletes receive benefits that regular students at universities do not. They get mountains of apparel from school athletic sponsors like Nike, Adidas and Under Armour and they often have their own personal nutritionist.
Watch any tour of the athletic departments at the likes of Clemson, Alabama and Oklahoma. As an undergraduate student, I can safely say that residence halls typically do not have built-in slides and bowling alleys.
This is why I do not believe college athletes should be paid by their universities, but I do believe they should be able to market their talent the same way a student who is an adept musician would be able to make money off of their songs.
I will offer an olive branch to those who think like Tebow. Prominent college athletes such as Trevor Lawrence and James Wiseman would presumably make thousands and millions off of shoe deals and other endorsements. To compromise, those athletes should have to donate a portion of their earnings to the charity of their choice.
I do not know what the exact number would be, but I think this would offer a chance for those prominent athletes to buy into something bigger than themselves and to promote a worthy cause on the national stage.
The idea that a player should not be able to sell his or her shoes, appear in a video game or sign jerseys has been and is a petty proposition. This is especially true when his or her coaches and universities are receiving the exorbitant salaries, revenues and benefits of today.
Edited by Emma Moloney | firstname.lastname@example.org