The high and mighty castle of NCAA hypocrisy crumbled on Wednesday when the organization’s board of directors suspended age-old rules that prevented athletes from earning money.

Oh, the NCAA is still holding onto the strings of amateurism. You can’t give money to recruits to lure them to campus. A guy can’t receive a salary to play for a school. What a male or female athlete can do is hire an agent to help market their name, likeness and image.

They can create a name brand, monetize their social media presence, sell calendars with their own photoshoot product. They can generally work and earn money while in college, utilizing their fame, just like regular students who have some talent to market.

They can endorse a product or company and get paid.

Imagine.

Freedom to work in a free-market economy.

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This decision, made by the NCAA knowing that Congress and each state legislature will have impending laws to help govern this new economic path, is a landmark move.

You can compare it to Title IX more than 50 years ago, which opened the door to equal opportunities for both men and women in sports.

After major lawsuits and an argument before the Supreme Court in which the NCAA lost, the board of directors relented. 

The NCAA ran out of committees, studies and blowhard speeches.

Reality hit.

And hit hard.

For decades, Americans have watched universities make mega-money TV and endorsement deals with shoe and clothing companies, build multi-million dollar athletic arenas and stadiums, enjoy lavish offices and construct world-class workout digs. We’ve seen the NCAA make billions of dollars off the annual NCAA basketball tournament and taking TV money and divvying it out to conferences and schools like pirate booty. 

Athletes got none of the cash.

Oh, sure, players were rewarded with outstanding educations; nice scholarships, books, tuition and lodging paid for, and a nice stipend. That’s far more than most students.

It’s nothing to discount.

But really, it was a huge one-sided deal when it came to the actual coin. During the last few years, the disparity between the NCAA/university and the student-athlete take became a joke. 

The education offered, while weighty and valuable, is a pittance to what the schools and the NCAA have hauled in over the years. We’ve watched as coaches made million-dollar salaries and schools raced to build the latest and best facilities.

You can plug in any number of college superstars over the years who’ve watched silently as schools sold their jerseys with special licensing rights. You’ve seen schools print posters with their stars, selling season tickets, promoting games, hauling in the dough using the athlete as the marketing meat.

I remember during Jimmermania when things in Provo went nuts as he climbed to the national spotlight. Under the old rules, BYU was more than right to ride Jimmer’s wave and market No. 32 like a Kentucky Derby racehorse.

But none of the riches found their way into Jimmer’s coffers as direct payments.

Those days are over.

A guy like Jimmer could represent a car dealership. He could do videos and market his image, have YouTube pay him for views and subscriptions, do a radio or TV show of his own instead of appearing “gratis” on somebody else’s broadcast, while they pocketed sponsorship money for putting it on the air.

It’s a whole new world.

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And that’s a good thing if you are a student-athlete with name and fame.

It gets a little sticky if you are a player in an underpublicized Olympic sport and the juice just isn’t there for a marketed gig. But that’s the free market — demand and supply.

Obviously, the superstar will be in demand.  

Schools still cannot pay athletes directly. But players can establish their own sports camps, seminars and lecture or speak for pay.

Somehow this feels like some new kind of rights have hatched out of our college athletics.

Once upon a time, before the digital age, the internet, the Vietnam War, Walmarts and Costcos, student-athletes basically played for the spirit of the game and competition.  Sidelines were manned by low-paid glorified gym teachers and cheerleaders screamed chants for fun. The whole thing was mostly an exercise in gleaning warm, fuzzy feelings; loyalty to a school, its colors, mascot and song.

Within a few days, you’ll see some college stars announce partnerships and endorsement deals. 

Look for Joe Blow to be a spokesman for Jake’s Jerky and Sausage.

We’ll see Suzy Striker help sell Marty’s Windows and Doors.

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It won’t be long until we hear an athlete give testimony about the meaty attack of his new SUV on overland hills, singing the praises of the customer service department and friendly sales at Acme Off-Road.

In this age of “me” and “I”  and what can the individual get out of it, we’re now racing down a freeway.

Turn up the tunes.

This is going to get interesting very fast.

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