Times changing for college sports
“From the start, American colleges and universities have had a complicated relationship with sports and money. In 1852, students from Harvard and Yale participated in what many regard as the nation’s first intercollegiate competition — a boat race at Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire. But this was no pickup match. A railroad executive sponsored the event to promote train travel to the picturesque lake. ... He offered the competitors an all-expenses-paid vacation with lavish prizes — along with unlimited alcohol.”
“From the start, American colleges and universities have had a complicated relationship with sports and money.”
So wrote Justice Neil Gorsuch in the opinion of the Supreme Court which decided a case 9-0 against the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
Justice Gorsuch continued with an informative and delightful description of the early days of college football, a time in which, he wrote, “Colleges offered all manner of compensation to talented athletes.” And he also wrote of the history of the NCAA’s efforts over the years to bring some order and fairness to intercollegiate athletics.
The court’s 9-0 ruling was on a fairly narrow matter, upholding a district court’s decision. That court, Gorsuch wrote, “refused to disturb the NCAA’s rules limiting undergraduate athletic scholarships and other compensation related to athletic performance. At the same time, the court struck down NCAA rules limiting the education-related benefits schools may offer student-athletes.”
The plaintiffs did not appeal; the NCAA did; it lost.
The immediate impact is negligible. Student-athletes maybe can get a free laptop or a graduate school fellowship. But the word “antitrust,” which rumbles through the Supreme Court decision, does create some uneasiness in the world of college athletics.
“The time is now to transform college sports and reimagine the NCAA system of governance.” So reads the first sentence of the charge to a committee formed this summer by the NCAA to revise its constitution. Chairing the committee is Robert M. Gates whose former tasks included being president of Texas A&M University, as well as serving as director of central intelligence under President George W. Bush and as defense secretary under both President Bush and President Barack Obama.
“The time is now to transform college sports and reimagine the NCAA system of governance.”
Gates is among many who find the NCAA’s rules and organization unduly complicated. “You know,” The New York Times quoted him as saying, “God figured out how to give the rules to all mankind in 10 declarative sentences. You’d think that the NCAA could figure out how to do intercollegiate sports in something short of several hundred pages.”
The NCAA has scheduled a special constitutional convention for November. A vote could come early next year.
Neil Sullivan, UD vice president and director of athletics, said that “college sports is undergoing a once-in-a-generation change.” He points not only to the issues arising from the Supreme Court decision’s possible implications but also those related to the ease of and increase in student-athlete transfers from one school to another and those related to the widespread legalization of sports wagering.
“College sports is undergoing a once-in-a-generation change.”
“Any one of these three,” he said, “would be a once-in-a-generation occurrence. All three together create a tremendous level of uncertainty.”
Shortly after the Supreme Court decision, the NCAA issued an interim policy on a student-athlete’s use of their name, image and likeness. An executive order by Gov. Mike DeWine set Ohio’s rules on such compensation.
Ohio’s order, Sullivan said, “is well done and relatively simple. Ohio is well positioned.”
UD’s policy is posted on daytonflyers.com.
Schools still cannot pay student-athletes for using their name, image or likeness. And student-athletes cannot be paid by third parties in exchange for performance or enrollment. Flyers can now, however, benefit financially from third parties for such things as autographs, personal appearances, endorsements, camps, private lessons, and promoting services or products. Among what they cannot promote are controlled substances, marijuana and tobacco. Flyer student-athletes also cannot promote products that conflict with UD’s existing agreements such as with Pepsi.
Flyers can now, however, benefit financially from third parties for such things as autographs, personal appearances, endorsements, camps, private lessons, and promoting services or products.
A student-athlete may hire an agent for these business arrangements but not for representing them in pursuing a professional career.
Sullivan believes one outcome of players being compensated will be co-licensing, projects from which the student-athlete benefits from the use of their name, likeness and image and the University benefits from the use of its name, logos and facilities. An example would be a Flyer jersey with a player’s name.
As student-athletes nationwide benefit from their use of their names, images and likenesses, Sullivan said, “methods will change. Our fan base will have to step up.”