By Ken Reed
Let’s just accept the fact that big-time, FBS-level, college football is professionalized and commercialized to the max. Big Ten athletic departments will soon be splitting $1 billion a year from the conference’s new TV deal. Meanwhile, football coaches salaries continue to go through the roof. And yet some observers of college football have the audacity to contend that the players — the very people who create this highly popular entertainment product — shouldn’t be getting NIL (name, image, likeness) money, but rather should be happy with tuition and room and board.
Here are some recent contracts for FBS head coaches:
Kirby Smart, Georgia, $110 million; Lincoln Riley, USC, $100 million; Brian Kelly, LSU, $95 million; Mario Cristobal, Miami $80 million; Mel Tucker, Michigan State, $95 million; James Franklin, Penn State, $70 million plus incentives; Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M, $75 million+.
NIck Saban, Alabama’s coach, has been a vocal critic of NIL money for players because he claims it devalues college football. Easy for him to say, he’ll be making $10.7 million during the 2022 season.
No matter how much money schools make off the backs of their athletes, no matter how big the contracts of school athletic directors and coaches become, no matter how much sports media executives make off college sports, some people continue to want the compensation for players to remain capped at a chair in campus classrooms and three meals at campus cafeterias.
Here’s another reality: when college athletic conferences sell out to the highest TV and/or streaming service bidder, the athletes lose. For example, athletes at USC and UCLA will soon have to miss a lot more class time when they join the Big Ten and have to travel all the way to the East Coast to play a volleyball game, or whatever sport it might be. USC and UCLA recently left a century of traditions and geographic rivalries in the Pac-12 conference to chase more media money in the Big Ten.
But hey, critics of NIL money for college athletes don’t worry, college sports will be fine. It’s similar to what happened with the Olympics. Critics of allowing Olympic athletes to receive sponsorship money claimed the demise of amateurism would kill the Olympics. Well, the Olympics are more popular and financially lucrative than ever.
When in doubt, do the right thing. That’s a simple and great rule of life. And in this case, allowing college athletes to financially benefit from their names, images and likenesses is the right thing to do.
The road to economic justice for college athletes has been a long one but we’re finally on the right path.
Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #32 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Prolific Author Joe Posnanski Joins the Show – Posnanski is one of America’s best sportswriters and has twice been named the best sports columnist in America by the Associated Press Sports Editors. We chat about his new book, “Why We Love Baseball,” his new Substack newsletter called Joe Blogs, and we cover topics including how baseball treats its fans, MLB’s numerous rule changes this past season, how the sport can become more fan-friendly, the greatness of Negro Leagues champion Buck O’Neil, and much more.
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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 and why some teams are still hesitant to put up protective netting in some minor league and college baseball parks.
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.
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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