COURTSIDE WITH COACH EDMONDS: Professionalism Comes to College in the form of Name, Image and Likeness

By indefinitely suspending its ban on athletes profiting from their names, images and likeness, the NCAA has embarked on its most notable change in the association’s 115-year history. We’re at the start, but the endgame is not in sight, which may be unsettling for the NCAA. In choosing institutional power over individual equity and promoting the fallacy of amateurism in the face of billions lining the pockets of everyone other than the athletes, the organization missed the chance to shape the future.

Spurred by a United States Supreme Court unanimous ruling against the NCAA’s ban against extra student benefits, the association created a new economy of brand marketing that will affect college athletics for years to come.

As of July 1, 2021, all student-athletes are free to capitalize on their athletic affiliations to ink endorsement deals; donate their time and autographed memorabilia to charitable causes; start podcasts and YouTube channels; and/or otherwise monetize their Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) without being deemed ineligible by the NCAA.

So how did we get here?

The Court refused to accept the NCAA’s position that they should be exempt from the antitrust laws that normally prevent businesses from restricting employee compensation which was a major blow to this institution’s power and control over athletes’ ability to profit on their likeness. The NCAA has officially supported modifications to its NIL rules since last fall but wanted to do so on its own terms.

NCAA President Mark Emmert urged Congress to act to preempt state laws, such as California’s Fair Pay to Play act, with a national, uniform standard but with no alternative NIL policy in place on June 30 ,2021, NCAA leadership opted to suspend its restrictions instead of trying to navigate a competitive system in which the rules vary by state, and some schools have huge recruiting advantages over others. They had no choice. We are treading on very precarious waters here folks, social media is about to blow up with college athletes promoting themselves in every stream that they can find, and colleges will have to accept this new ruling and make changes as we go along. Businesses will have to judiciously vet who they choose to promote and endorse as the centerpiece of what could be a financial landfall for themselves and the athletes.

My feeling is this is LONG overdue. College athletes have been used for years to promote the “goodwill of sports,” so why shouldn’t they have a kickback in terms of financial gain? I’ve said for years that athletes should be given a stipend to assist them in their financial struggles in college and don’t tell me “that’s what a scholarship is for” when you’re making billions off of student/athletes!

Before winning a Heisman Trophy and leading the University of Nebraska-Lincoln football team to the NCAA National Championship game in 2001, Cornhuskers starting quarterback Eric Crouch violated NCAA rules during the 2000 season. As part of a public appearance to promote the team, Crouch accepted a ham sandwich and a short plane ride valued together at $22.77. Breaking NCAA rules on accepting outside benefits earned Crouch a couple of games suspension, and he had to cut a check to pay back the costs of the infraction. Are you kidding? Give me a break! How much did the University of Nebraska profit off of Eric Crouch’s talents and exploits? Hmmmm…

Let’s fast forward to this past season. Bryce Young the starting quarterback at the University of Alabama—signed endorsement deals totaling nearly $1 million. Hercy Miller, son of famed rap artist Master P, and a freshman basketball player this past season at Tennessee State University, signed a $2 million NIL endorsement deal.

Now in your opinion readers, are these athletes right or wrong to profit in this manner? One is using a university’s fame to ink a huge deal while the other is using his father’s notoriety for financial gain. And this is just the start.

At what point do we reel things in? Not everyone can or will profit in this way, but where’s the endgame? Should high school students be allowed to profit under NIL rules as well? Don’t even get me started on that topic as it will take pages and pages to read. Hopefully, I’ve got you thinking as to where this could go. As a final thought, how will NIL deals affect players that are currently in the Transfer Portal? Hmmmmmm….

Keith Edmonds is a veteran of teaching and school administration from Fort Wayne. He coached boys high school basketball as an assistant at Snider High School, North Side High School and was the head boys basketball coach at Elmhurst High School for 12 years, advancing to the Class 3A State championship in 2003. Courtside with Coach Edmonds will appear monthly during basketball season at Outside the Huddle. These opinions represent those of the writer. No opinions expressed on Outside the Huddle represent those of any of our advertisers. 

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