College sports opened the box, but now what?
Well, it’s not going to get stuffed back into that box. The NCAA, which allowed student-athletes to monetize their name, likeness and image beginning July 1, is now basically irrelevant.
To earn is a good thing.
But to make it fair, to balance it out, to make policies that deal with it and make it an organized enterprise is quite another.
For a while, it will be mass chaos and nobody knows just how crazy things will get. Folks who’ve worked in college athletics for decades admit they have no clue how this is going to go down.
Bad actors, who have paid recruits under the table, will still try to game the system and find a way to cheat.
Teams who have superstars making money off endorsement deals will find teammates on the roster who are making nothing. How does that build team chemistry? How does a coach get players to focus on a game plan and preparation to play when some guys on the team are distracted by the allure of finding ways to make more coin with a deal?
“If I’m a coach,” said BYUtv’s Blaine Fowler, “I’m thinking, ‘Oh, my goodness, this is the biggest distraction.’”
Frankly, it’s going to be like herding cats.
BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe told 1280 The Zone radio Thursday that nobody really knows how this is going to go. Schools and administrators like himself are going to have to feel their way around and adjust.
Holmoe sent out some guidelines to coaches, players and administrators Friday morning in an attempt to set some foundational guidelines.
It addressed the use of school logos, marks and facilities on campus. It restricted any endorsement or moneymaking schemes that did not follow the school’s Honor Code (alcohol, tobacco, gambling et al). It called for a form to be filled out, detailing what the heck was about to happen.
On the other hand, ESPN’s Paul Finebaum said this new move is the end of the NCAA. It is finished.
The NCAA’s role as a voice of authority is shattered. It’s like somebody set a bag of marbles loose on a hill and watched gravity take it all away.
The good news is that student-athletes can extend their ability to earn for themselves. That’s always going to be a step forward, real progress, a long-overdue path for personal growth and realizing potential.
The problem is guidance, control and cheating.
The problem is, what’s in store for the athlete who isn’t a superstar and doesn’t have 50,000 followers on Twitter, Instagram or TikTok?
There are more than 600 student-athletes at a major university with dozens of sports to support. The majority of those athletes, maybe even 90%, are not going to get a call from a corporation, marketing firm or company with an open checkbook for endorsements.
What happens to team chemistry and unity when some of those players walk out of the locker room into the parking lot and see a teammate doing a commercial before driving away in a nice SUV he or she had earned with the extra cash.
This is going to be a sports cultural challenge for us in the coming weeks.
Social media is going to be a big part of this. There are athletes with tens of thousands of followers on Instagram and Twitter who can benefit greatly from using their platform to push a product or company. Many coaches have banned the use of social media during a season, trying to keep some kind of decorum with players and the team for unity.
That goes out the window. You cannot prevent that kind of interaction from “freed” athletes who can make money off their social media accounts.
There is no blueprint or design that exists on how to proceed. It’s kind of a make-it-up-as-you-go kind of deal.
Can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube.
In Utah, I think our universities are in a good position to take advantage of this new plan for their players. The economy is the best in the country. We have low unemployment, great companies across the spectrum from high tech, manufacturing, industry and even, yes, multilevel marketing.
Our companies in Utah have been charitable and anxious to get involved and contribute to causes. There’s no reason not to think many may open up their budgets to include marketing for student-athletes and endorsement contracts.
In two months, we’ll have a better handle on how this is going to unfold.
Right now, it’s chow time and the line is open.
Take a number.