College athletes will finally get their due.

It’s comeuppance time.

College sports were sorely impacted by greed when schools started paying coaches millions and a money chase ensued, and now it has from the other end, the players.

Things will never be the same.

It’s too late for stars like Utah’s Andre Miller and BYU’s Jimmer Fredette to get theirs, but future players will realize compensation for their efforts.

If you thought college sports were confusing today with the transfer portal, just wait a few months. Finding NIL money is already a huge hurdle for college programs when putting together rosters. If the proposal is finalized, college athletes can be paid directly by the institutions, and that will force schools to dig down deep. Too bad they can’t just print money like the government does.

The five power conferences just signed on to accept a multi-billion dollar settlement in antitrust lawsuits against the NCAA, which would lead to paying college athletes directly and dealing out backpay to athletes as far back as 2016. It will also likely lead to doing away with scholarship limits, which will be converted to restrictions on how many athletes can be on a roster. That could mean the end to athletes who walk on.

Confusing?

Yes, but better words would be messy or muddied.

Still, it is a step in the right direction, albeit with stark craziness.

The NCAA and these conferences are settling to avoid paying even more for breaking antitrust laws. Now they have to find a way to not break any laws at all.

A structure or framework for governance has yet to be created.

One way to accept and understand it all is to realize a new model is needed for college sports amateurism. The time has come because there is so much money involved.

“It’s going to pose a real challenge to universities, maybe not the Ohio States or Alabamas but it will impact the rest,” said Val Hale, former athletic director at BYU. Hale had a current administrator at a power school come up to him a few days ago at an event and tell him, “Be glad you aren’t in athletics today.”

Related
What you need to know about the NCAA’s pay-to-play proposal

Hale said the amount of fundraising needed to keep athletics going is tough and it just got tougher. And it poses challenges for donors.

“It would be concerning to me if I was an administrator or athletic director. It’s all about money now. Gone are the days a guy would come and play for the love of the game, like a Chad Lewis, who was thrilled to walk on and play college ball for the sheer joy of being part of a team.”

Hale said no question there was a time the NCAA needed to help out athletes far more than it had.

“The pendulum began to swing that way and now it’s swinging far too much that way. It needs to be somewhere in the middle,” said Hale.

The bottom line is, yes, paying athletes is fair, but this will also crush non-power conference programs and change the face of college sports as we know it. There will be people laid off, some small schools will shut down programs and recruiting will be an elite business model that will bury the little guys.

This will be tough for Utah State and Weber State because they’ll be recruiting against power conferences that already have an advantage in NIL resources and now there will be direct-payment pitches — and they’ve had no say in the matter.

Congress will probably get involved. We know how that usually goes.

According to Matt Brown of the “Extra Points” newsletter, there are layers of work to be defined and tackled.

“There are still plenty of unanswered questions. How, exactly, will the revenue sharing money be distributed? What schools will opt in to revenue sharing, and by how much?” Brown wrote. “What additional regulatory changes, from roster sizes to NCAA rule enforcement to the operational status of collectives are coming as a result of this settlement?

“And what can smaller conferences, who are furious about their perceived lack of involvement in the discussions, and their disproportionate share of the settlement burden, do about the agreement, now that the NCAA and named defendants have voted? Do they have any recourse or redress?”

Citing Yahoo, Brown adds, if you look at this settlement and how it is structured, it is a little nuts to see how hard lawyers for the NCAA battled to keep from spending a few thousand more in educational cost stipends.

It would be nice if college athletics could take care of everyone across the board from its blessings earned, but there is too much competition, greed, and selfishness and now it’s time to pay the piper.

In reality, it’s about time. College sports — the unwieldy NCAA — has made billions off the labor of college players over the decades.

It’s been a kind of fiefdom, exploitation by owners.

Related
NCAA, leagues back $2.8 billion settlement, setting stage for dramatic change across college sports

College administrators and the NCAA have cashed the checks, the players have received an education, but lived the rest of their lives with aching limbs, joints and the results of concussions.

Still, the NCAA is trying to protect its stranglehold on the amateurism ideal.

“This would be the biggest change in the history of college sports. Period,” Gabe Feldman, a sports law professor at Tulane and leading voice in NCAA litigation matters, was quoted by Yahoo. “There have been significant changes and incremental changes. The NIL era has opened a lot of doors, but to have athletes share revenue with the schools would be not only monumental but would be contrary to what the NCAA has espoused for a century.”

Colleges have hired coaches and paid them millions. Conferences elected to pay commissioners like the embattled Larry Scott of the Pac-12 a $5 million salary, but no salary came for the performers on the field and court, the heart of the anti-trust suits.

Details have yet to be hammered out and the settlement still needs to be approved. There are more questions than answers, the biggest of course is what impact this will have on P5 programs like Utah and BYU when they split their athletic income with athletes. They must continue to lean on collectives — wealthy boosters — to pay NIL money to attract the best players to campus. Will that lead to fundraising fatigue?

Not all university wells are deep.

This settlement dictates payments of more than $2.75 billion must be paid from the NCAA to current and former Division I athletes. It establishes a future revenue-sharing agreement between power conference schools and athletes.

These power conferences (Big Ten, SEC, ACC, Big 12) agreed that members would shell out 22% of their annual revenue, estimated to be about $20 million per school, to pay their athletes.

The NCAA wants these suits to go away. There is no guarantee there won’t be some other suits popping up like a filing in Colorado (Fontenot v. NCAA), which continues on its path.

As ESPN’s Pete Thamel put it, it’s paying billions to avoid paying billions more.

This settlement, coming from three lawsuits against the NCAA for compensation for NIL dating back eight years, will come from the NCAA’s reserve funds and future distributions to conferences.

In so many ways, this is the NCAA’s fault.

Governed by university presidents, it has been poorly administrated. There’s a lack of foresight, trust and planning; it has been mostly reaction instead of action for decades.

The NCAA’s answer to player freedoms has been to add pages to a thick phone book-like set of rules and regulations, piling on restrictions and many times inane rules to exercise control over athletes and protect their hind ends and money interests.

The NCAA has treated athletes like indentured servants, restricting movement and freedom. They’d take eligibility away if someone bought a player lunch, bought them shoes or helped them get home for a funeral. Meanwhile, their coaches, commissioners and athletic directors buy mansions and have country club memberships, car allowances, blocks of tickets, access to private jets, bonuses and other perks.

The NCAA should have seen this coming a long time ago and addressed some kind of revenue sharing with athletes.

Now it’s far more messy than a few months ago when NIL drama began soap opera status.

But they couldn’t part with the money, couldn’t see past the next budget year and the sound of coins dropping in their collective pots of gold.

Questions abound.

Do athletes become school employees or contract workers?

Is there a scale for direct payments or will the money be the same in all sports?

Will schools cease giving out athletic scholarships?

If salaried employees, do health and other benefits become part of the package?

Will there be salary caps?

Will non-power conference schools need to pay players?

Welcome to college sports, circa 2024.

“It’s going to be a challenge to figure all this out,” said Hale.