Why can’t college athletes profit off their likeness?

Truthfully, I have yet to hear an argument that has convinced me the slightest bit that athletes shouldn’t be able to profit off of their own likeness. If I, a college journalism student, wrote an article for my school paper that received national notoriety, you better believe I’m turning that into financial gains for myself. Why isn’t the it the same for athletes?

College athletics provide billions of dollars for universities across the country. In fact, BusinessInsider reported that in the 2015 fiscal year, $9.15B was generated by the 231 Division I schools. It’s undeniable that the kids are a cash cow for the NCAA and I think it’s time they start to see some of the fruits of their labor.

This debate has left me confused for years. Before I get going on this I’m going to make it clear, I am for paying the players. I can understand those who do not believe athletes should receive a salary pay from universities. Salary based pay creates pay discrepancies and ultimately, more problems for the league. Schools in the Power 5 Conferences already have a serious advantage and adding in the ability to pay more than other schools instantly makes recruiting that much harder.

With that in-mind, I still don’t see why a player can’t profit off of his likeness. In the situation I am going to lay out all parties make additional revenue. The school doesn’t have to pay any additional money out but the athlete still earns revenue he that previously would have stripped him of his amateur status.

Poole Party

For my first example, I present Jordan Poole.

Poole is a basketball player for the University of Michigan, #2 in the photo. During the 2018 NCAA Tournament, Poole hit a game-winning three point shot as time expired. For the young freshman, the image of him sinking the deep range shot over the defender will follow him forever.

In a perfect world, the world I’m attempting to paint currently, Jordan Poole should have been able to immediately turn around, head to Ann Arbor, and host a photograph signing session anywhere that would be willing to house him. Poole could capitalize on the moment and generate revenue for himself without taking a single dime from the NCAA. In this situation, the player’s value is in the eyes of the fan, not the NCAA, effectively removing them from having to make any decisions regarding who is worth what.

I will acknowledge the fact that this could open up the flood gates for boosters and other similar characters to pay an ABSURD amount for an autograph but a situation like that can be easily monitored and still be a violation. Egregious payments could be a cause for concern but I think it is a much more manageable issue than the current climate we currently are in.

A step further

In this model, players can profit off of their actions, their reactions, and themselves entirely. This could offer many new revenue streams for both athletes and universities without one having to sacrifice for the other. Two new revenue streams we could see are increased merchandising and the return of NCAA video games.

I preface this paragraph with this fact, I LOVED NCAA VIDEO GAMES AND WANT THEM BACK. That being said, I don’t believe that bias impacts my ability to see an opportunity that simply is not being exploited. In fact, I think it makes me the perfect candidate to bring the idea to the foreground

In the year 2018 I STILL play my NCAA Football 2014 game on my Xbox 360. I still own NCAA Basketball and Baseball games for my PlayStation 2. I’m not alone in this sentiment, tweets pop up on a daily basis with fans calling out for the return of NCAA video games. However, due to player likeness issues, the production of NCAA games was halted in 2014. I think it’s time we bring them back.

If we allow players to profit off their likeness, they can receive revenue for being in the game. Yet again, this money would come from a 3rd party and in this situation, both the athletes AND the NCAA get richer in the process. I’m not expecting these guys to be making thousands of dollars from these deals but giving these kids the opportunity to secure walking around money is only fair with the amount of revenue they provide for their universities.

The same goes for extended merchandising. If we allow the students to profit off their likeness, school stores could sell individualized jerseys, t-shirts, hoodies, hats, you name it! Introducing a new line of merchandise that specifically referenced a player would certainly increase sales, again making both parties richer.

I really can’t see a reason why this wouldn’t work. If I, as a student, wanted to sell my writing to a bigger blog or create t-shirts with my face on it, I wouldn’t lose my eligibility to write for my school’s STUDENT-RAN newspaper. I am an amateur journalist at this time but I am in no fear of losing my amateur status. It shouldn’t be any different for athletes.

I think the time has come for change. I think that a model based on player likeness profits is the most realistic option for the future. I’m going to end this piece with a question because maybe I’m too convinced that players should profit off likeness to see the counter arguments.

Why shouldn’t college athletes be able to profit off of their own likeness? I’d love to hear reasoning from those on the other side of the fence.

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