This week the NCAA ruled that college athletes will now be eligible to earn money from endorsements, ending the fight over the topic that has been going on for over a decade. No later than January 2021, all agencies are required to change their legislation regarding the ability of players to receive compensation for their name, image and likeness. The change comes in the wake of a recent push for equality in the college athletic community that was previously unbalanced between colleges and their athletes. Although both sides of the debate have valid points, it is hard not to view this development as a positive progression for college sports. Not only will it usher in a new and promising era for college sports but it will also provide a more equal position for athletes within the community.
College athletes have a lot on their plate; hours of practice every week, weekends away at games, and not to mention the responsibilities of being a full-time college student by fulfilling their academic requirements. Often times the “athlete” aspect of the title “student-athlete” takes precedence and as a result, time that could be spent studying is sacrificed for the betterment of a team. An additional pressure is placed upon students who rely on jobs to sustain themselves while at school. Some manage to balance all three but it goes without saying that it is an incredibly challenging feat to pull off.
The real reasoning behind this development in college athletics comes from an examination of the parallels between college and professional sports. Players of both levels are bound by contract, required to attend events and are profited off of by the organizations for which they play. The difference lies in the fact that while professional players take home millions, college athletes, even those that play for top schools that garnish considerable media attention, have historically been left without any form of compensation.
The NCAA’s argument against allowing the commercialization of college sports is centered around the assumption made by the organization that an unfair playing ground would result from the policy change. In a statement published by CNBC, NCAA board chair Micheal Drake said redefining the status quo would result in mass confusion and professionalization of college athletics.
Drake in a way does have a point. One of the possible drawbacks of the new ruling involves an imbalance of revenue earned by players as their income will depend solely on their popularity and performance in their sport of experience — the very thing that the NCAA is trying to prevent from happening. Lawmakers across the U.S. have been enacting legislation over the past few months in order to take the step that the NCAA was previously unwilling to take in order to modernize college sports and create a better environment for athletes. With the approval of the groundbreaking Fair Pay to Play Act passed in the state of California, the NCAA’s hand was essentially pushed in the matter even though the two organizations are separate in nature. If the college sporting organization had not approved the notion this past Tuesday, a slew of legal battles would essentially have been guaranteed to ensue as the NCAA would have to follow the laws enacted by the states that the individual college teams are located in.
The recognition of the right of students to have a part in making a profit from an industry they constitute the backbone of was a major selling point in the unanimous decision reached by the NCAA this past Tuesday. The prohibition of students receiving pay for their performance is still in effect, although many view the coming change in policy as a first step towards equality and fair treatment of athletes in collegiate sports.