Nov   2019



Getting Paid to Play Sports in College: The NCAA Has Big News

Digital Advertising Associate, Carnegie Dartlet
Last Updated: Jun 25, 2020

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) made a groundbreaking decision last week that sent shock waves across the nation. In a unanimous decision, the NCAA has directed all three divisions to allow student-athletes to receive compensation for the use of their image, name, and likeness by 2021. This decision was determined based on recommendations from the NCAA Board of Governors Federal and State Legislation Working Group. While this decision has been a long time coming, it’s also sparked controversy. 

California’s Fair Pay to Play Act

In September, California became the first state to pass a federal bill allowing student-athletes to receive paid endorsement deals. Despite the NCAA calling this unconstitutional, Governor Gavin Newsom believes this is a step in the right direction. 

“I have deep reverence, deep respect for the NCAA and college athletics….I just think the system has been perverted, and this is fundamentally about rebalancing things. It’s about equity, it’s about fairness, and it’s about time,” he told the Los Angeles Times. 

The signing of this bill put the NCAA under pressure to do the right thing. While that law won’t go into effect until 2023, it opens the door to discussion and negotiation.

Related: Should College Student-Athletes Be Paid? Both Sides of the Debate

The pressure is on

The NCAA has long been under speculation for generating billions in revenue while not sharing any of those funds with the student-athletes who take to the court or pitch for games. They have consistently been in the hot seat, suggesting they would take action and put the organization's practices first—one of those actions being converting a portion of the revenue into scholarships. 

While NCAA President Mark Emmert told NPR, “The board's action today creates a path to enhance opportunities for student-athletes while ensuring they compete against students and not professionals,” many believe his statement is vague, open-ended, and empty. 

Let’s put it in perspective

According to Investopedia, in 2019, March Madness raked in $933 million in revenue from media rights fees, ticket sales, corporate sponsorships, and television ads surrounding the three-week tournament. Additionally, in 2016, the University of Louisville’s basketball program made $41.7 million in profits, while Duke University made $31.3 million. The student-athletes? They earned $0.00. 

Former Duke University basketball player Zion Williamson was the first-round first pick in the 2019 NBA draft. He was one of the most marketable college basketball players in the country and one of the most anticipated future pros since Lebron James. He rose to stardom at Duke and made the consistently sold-out Cameron Indoor Stadium his playground. 

The highly anticipated annual UNC-Duke basketball game surpassed $3,200 for tickets in 2019. While Williamson spiked interest and attention across the nation for sports fans, he didn’t earn a single penny for his name, image, or likeness.  

Related: Time to Dance: What It’s Like to Attend a School Competing in March Madness

Opportunity on the horizon

To sum it up, student-athletes now have a window of opportunity to be compensated for their talent and dedication. Elite college athletes like Zion Williamson could pocket hundreds of thousands of dollars annually for their talent because of this latest decision. And student-athletes who don’t have as high a profile could still benefit from local deals that would make living on a budget for college students a little more livable.

The bottom line: student-athletes dedicate years of their lives training, practicing, and analyzing film to get better. For the NCAA and universities to use athletes for promotional entities, and for those students not benefiting from that at all, the future is now. 

What do you think?

Where do you stand on the topic? Should student-athletes be compensated for the use of their name and image? Should athletes not be compensated until they’re out of the amateur level?

Let us know what you think about the NCAA’s latest decision! Tweet us your thoughts @CollegeXpress. 

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