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 #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. Linda writes extensively about how youth sports can hijack families, and family outings, non-sports activities and bonding time are lost in the pursuit of the next club team game or travel tournament.
Follow on Facebook: @SportsForumPodcast
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.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
Episode #22 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Rethinking Sports Fandom with Author Craig Calcaterra – We discuss Calcaterra’s new book “Rethinking Fandom: How to Beat the Sports-Industrial Complex at Its Own Game” and explore new ways to be a fan.
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.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
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.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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