By Ken Reed
Well, we’ve reached college football’s bowl and playoff season and college football — as we’ve long known it — didn’t collapse due to N.I.L. (name, image and likeness) deals college athletes are now allowed to make.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has long argued that the foundation of college sports MUST be amateurism (read: everyone involved with college sports is allowed to make money except the athletes who create the product) or the entire concept of college sports would simply fall apart.
NCAA executives, college presidents, athletic directors and coaches have long told us that college athletes are simply students who participate in extra-curricular activities for the love of the sport. This despite the billions of dollars involved in the college sports enterprise, the long hours college athletes must put in to remain on their teams, and the short and long-term health risks involved. They told us that fans would go away if college athletes were able to use their NILs to make some money. They told us the distinction between college and pro sports would blur and that college fans would simply switch to watching pro sports where the athletes are better.
Uh, no. The reality tells a different story. Despite lingering pandemic fears, college football attendance and television ratings were strong in 2021. College sports revenues — aside from a few pandemic setbacks — haven’t dampened simply because some players are making money off their NILs.
A couple years ago, state legislators started to step into the college sports scene by passing laws forbidding universities from punishing, or disciplining in any way, athletes who took NIL deals (e.g., endorsements, licensing contracts, autographs signings at the local auto parts store, etc.). The NCAA tried to fight this development in Congress and at the state level but finally saw the writing on the wall and decided to allow athletes to cut NIL deals without losing eligibility.
And it’s not just men’s college football and basketball players who are benefitting from NIL deals. Athletes of both genders and across all sports have signed NIL deals.
The bottom line is, college sports are as popular as they’ve always been. And college athletes, from the lowest levels to the highest levels, and from the most obscure non-revenue sports to the highly commercialized sports of football and men’s basketball are being compensated for the use of their names, images and likenesses.
They can now be entrepreneurs, just like any other students on campus.
It’s a nice win for economic justice.
Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #21 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Chatting About a Broken Game With Baseball Writer Pedro Moura – Moura is a national baseball writer for Fox Sports. He previously covered the Los Angeles Dodgers for The Athletic. His new book is titled “How to Beat a Broken Game: The Rise of the Dodgers in a League on the Brink.” We discuss how and why the game of baseball is broken, what factors caused it, and offer a few thoughts on how to “fix” a great game.
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Episode #20 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Coaching Youth and High School Sports Based On What’s Best for the Athlete’s Holistic Development – We chat with long-time youth, high school and college basketball coach Jim Huber.
Episode #19 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Capturing the Spirit of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League with Anika Orrock – We discuss the hoops AAGPFL women had to jump through to play the game they loved as well as the long-term impact and legacy they have in advancing sports opportunities for girls and women.
Episode #18 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking about the 50th Anniversary of Title IX and the Lia Thomas Controversy with Nancy Hogshead-Makar – Hogshead-Makar is a triple gold medalist in swimming, a civil rights attorney and CEO of Champion Women.
Episode #17 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports With Legendary New York Times Sports Columnist Robert Lipsyte – We chat about Lipsyte’s amazing career and some of the athletes he covered.
Episode #16 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Andrew Maraniss: Outstanding Author of Books That Focus On the Intersection of Sports, History and Social Justice.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
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