COLUMN: NIL may sell student to highest bidder

Randy Gibson

In July, the NCAA changed its rules to provide college athletes with opportunities and protections to make money by selling their name, image, and likeness, or NIL.

The idea was that many schools were cheating and doing deals with student athletes and their families during the recruiting process, which has been an unwritten – yet understood – rule of the game for decades, and everything would proceed so long as you didn’t get caught. When schools did get caught, there were the typical penalties of probation, no televised games, no bowl trips, and scholarship limitations. The one exception to that tradition was when SMU got the “death penalty” when the football team was totally disbanded for the 1988 season.

Sometimes the student athlete would also be punished. Thus was the case during the 2004 and 2005 seasons at USC and running back Reggie Bush, who received around $300,000 in cash and gifts during his college playing days. After a decision in 2010, USC was forced to forfeit end of season victories in 2004 and all victories in 2005, including the 2004 national championship game and trophy. Bush won the Heisman Trophy in 2005 and vacated the award. The Heisman and the BCS championship both show no winner for the years Bush and USC won their titles.

Another reason for the rule change was the seemingly unfairness of major universities monetarily profiting off their student athletes. These major programs make billions because of the play of their athletic teams, and coaches receive millions in contract deals from major athletic companies, while the students were unable to receive anything other than their scholarships for education, housing, and food, along with special items given to the entire team under the rules.

With these changes, if a team has a superstar, that student can now make his own deals and be the beneficiaries of his athletic abilities, along with the school. Since many student athletes come from underprivileged circumstances, it was felt these deals would help promote the development of those abilities and lead them to gaining a college education and monetary relief for them and the family in the process. Many argue the rule change helps the student athlete and the school, since everything can be above board and a professional business venture.

The problem comes when you consider this puts the proverbial cart before the horse. Usually, young people are not emotionally and mentally prepared to handle large business deals of this sum. Many get the idea their worth is more than it is, and they lose focus on being a team player and miss the emotions of playing for championships with their teams in their sports. Eyes of other players often roll in locker rooms, causing dissension, and some supporting teammates simply may not play as hard in making the “star” look as good and more money while they get nothing in return. The acronym of TEAM – Together Everyone Achieves More – goes out the window at times with the emotions of disgust and jealousy of the supporting players or the supposed laziness and arrogant attitudes of those receiving the money and attention.

For years, the NCAA needed to adjust some rules that would allow athletes in need to get additional monetary assistance. However, giving high schoolers and newly enrolled college students thousands or millions of dollars is not the answer. The NCAA and the universities need to work to further adjust these rules so real help is provided and not simply putting young people is a situation of being sold to the highest bidder.

Randy Gibson is the CEO of RDG Communications and the former director of the Tahlequah Chamber of Commerce and the Texas State Rifle Association.

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