Should College Athletes Be Paid?

October 26, 2021


The name image and likeness (NIL) era has begun in college athletics. This has brought about some controversy, but I’m here for the rule change.

To start it broadens opportunities for athletes to brand themselves. Since the big stars, such as Zion Williamson, are going to play professionally anyway, understanding brand deals and the ins and outs of the business world is crucial knowledge. So why not start them young?

It also allows athletes who don’t succeed in the pros but were college phenoms, to profit off of their time in the sun. Players such as AJ McCarron and Jimmer Fredette are two examples of athletes who dazzled in college but flamed out at the next level. If they had been able to profit off of their success in college then they would have much more financial security in their future.

Some may argue that those who have signed these deals haven’t played to the level they’re expected to; I believe that’s completely bogus. University of North Carolina Quarterback Sam Howell was expected to regress following the loss of his two star receivers as well as his two dominant running backs.

The biggest impact of this deal though, without a doubt, is the return of NCAA video games. I was too young to enjoy them when they came out, but have been itching to play them. It’s an added bonus to a situation where everyone wins, especially the fans.

This ruling could shift the entire landscape of college sports. We all know that typically the same teams dominate year in and year out, but with this new ruling, legacy might not be the only thing that impacts where a top recruit heads. Large markets along the west coast could see an uptick in recruits “chasing the bag” and that could shake up a system that has become boring at times due to redundancy.

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The Notorious B.I.G once wrote a song titled “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems.” This is a perfect four-word summary for the new name, image, likeness (NIL) rule.

The NIL era began three months ago, following a unanimous Supreme Court ruling that allows college athletes to profit from their personal athletic branding and merchandising. It seems straightforward enough, but it raises a bunch of questions: Will the stars that make the greatest money be put under further scrutiny? Will the big bucks deals cause chemistry issues among teammates? Will players place more emphasis on themselves than on the team? Will we be hearing stories 10 years from now about college athletes going broke after squandering these huge NIL contracts?

These questions are very important to look at when considering the new NIL rule.

Spencer Rattler (Oklahoma), DJ Uiagalelei (Clemson), and Sam Howell (North Carolina) are three college quarterbacks that are poster boys for this new NIL era. Rattler has created his own logo and online shop while signing deals with Cameo (a personalized video from celebrities)  and Raising Cane’s. (a chicken fast food restaurant based in the South).  Uiagalelei has signed marketing deals with Bojangles and Dr. Pepper, while Howell inked deals with Bojangles and trading card company Super Glow.

The seasons for each of these players hasn’t begun well, however. In a tight win over West Virginia, Rattler was booed by his own fans, who chanted for him to be replaced by his backup, Caleb Williams. He was benched against Texas at halftime in favor of Williams. Williams then led Oklahoma to an impressive comeback after trailing by as many as 21 points. 

For Uiagalelei, Clemson lost two regular season games for the first time since 2014, and it is looking likely that Clemson is all but eliminated from the College Football Playoff. 

In a season-opening loss to Virginia Tech, Howell threw three interceptions, and North Carolina has already lost two games in the ACC’s dismal conference without still having played the bigger teams such as Clemson and Notre Dame.

Putting college athletes on billboards and commercials, for example, puts a lot of pressure on the younger player because it’s all about expectations. The scrutiny, if you’re getting paid to do something, is going to be intensified no matter what public profession you are in. These people are no longer considered just college athletes.

That is exactly the problem. There is a reason why college players traditionally have not been viewed as professionals. Student-athletes are still amateurs. For professional bound athletes, college is like training wheels. Athletes go into a new environment, meet and compete against others from all over the country, and most importantly receive an education. That, of course, is the point of college.

Before the NIL rule, the top college athletes were essentially paid already in the form of an athletic scholarship. They get free tuition, housing, and meal plans, as well as money for books and other expenses. Academic counseling, tutoring, life skill training, and even nutritional guidance are all available to athletes at the larger, more successful universities. Depending on their sport and whether they attend a public or private university, a full-ride student-athlete at a major conference school is likely to receive a package of education, accommodation and board, and coaching/training costing $50,000 to $125,000 per year. That sounds like a pretty good “payment” to me.

I believe that chemistry in a team will also be affected. Before the NIL rule, everyone was equal. For the most part, all athletes had an athletic scholarship with its benefits, and that was it. Now this will all be different. Will the left tackle pout and not do his job blocking for the quarterback who receives more than his fair share of endorsement opportunities while his linemen receive little to none?

Let’s remember the term student-athlete. Being a student is the number one priority. With this new NIL rule, I believe that we begin to lose our sanity when we further minimize the relevance of the degree. It is a privilege for someone to get the opportunity to do what they love best and get a higher level education at the same time while not having to worry about the pressures of paying. Do you know how many of the 43 million Americans still paying off their college degrees would sign up for that?

The original goal of a college athlete was to get a scholarship, and education, and to graduate while having great years playing and creating great memories. The NIL rules drastically change how we will look at college athletics. I think it changes college athletes to a semi-pro league which was not the original intent in the creation of college sports.

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