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 #31 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Foul Ball Safety Is Still an Important Issue at Ballparks – Our guests are Jordan Skopp, founder of FoulBallSafety.com and Greg Wilkowski, a Chicago based attorney. We discuss the historical problem of foul balls injuring fans, why some teams are still hesitant to put up protective netting in some minor league and college baseball parks, and the fact the vast majority of players are for more protective netting in stadiums.
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Episode #30 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The State of College Athletics with Dr. David Ridpath: Problems and Potential Solutions – Ridpath is a sports administration professor at Ohio University and a member of The Drake Group, a college sports reform think tank.
Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman. We discuss the state of college athletics today.
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
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.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
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.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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