If you in any way shape or form follow college sports, then you know that a cosmic shift is on the horizon. The state of California passed a law that allows college athletes to profit from their name and likeness. This set off a chain reaction that effectively strong-armed the NCAA into re-evaluating their long-held stance against athletes profiting from their name and likeness and last month, the NCAA finally voted unanimously to start the process of modifying its rules around the subject.
So, what does all of this mean for the average NCAA athlete? Well, basically nothing.
The entire debate about compensation for college athletes has been framed around the larger than life superstars you see on the football field and basketball court such as Anthony Davis, Tim Tebow, Zion Williamson, and Johnny Manziel. However, most athletes fall way short of the aforementioned.
Most college athletes play sports that probably don’t even turn a profit and are completely subsidized by football and basketball. Most college athletes probably aren’t even worth the value of their room, board, and tuition on the open market. To quote the NCAA’s own commercials the vast majority will “go pro in something other than sports.”
Pick a sport that isn’t men’s basketball or football. Go look at what the average minor league salary is in that sport. Then, compare that to tuition, room, and board at a school like Notre Dame. With many sports, you could probably do this with the average salary in their major league too. For example, the starting WNBA salary is around $50,000. The annual cost to attend Notre Dame out of state is $69,395. Yes, Notre Dame is an expensive school, but the WNBA comprises the best women’s basketball players in the world, a far cry from the young lady riding the bench at Stanford. This trend holds up across most of the other NCAA sports.
The honest truth is this: The NCAA compensation system is an extremely generous system to almost everyone but the football and basketball players. They are by and large the only ones that will be able to sign endorsements or sell autographs or jerseys at a significant level. EA used to manufacture NCAA college basketball and football video games, and that will be an option once again… but you probably are not going to see NCAA Lacrosse 2020 on the shelves anytime soon. Most people cannot name a college athlete that isn’t a football or basketball player, and that is a pretty good indication of their free-market worth.
This does open the door for athletes to do things like host camps. Less popular athletes would benefit from opportunities like that as well. And while far rarer, there are certain athletes in less popular sports that could take advantage too. For example, track and field athletes, particularly around the time of the Olympic games.
The NCAA image and likeness rule change is a step in the right direction. There is a huge gap between the value that certain athletes are bringing and the compensation they are receiving in return. But most athletes are not the aforementioned “certain athletes” and can expect business as usual.