By Ken Reed

I’d hate to be a college athletic director, or football or basketball coach, right now. Between name, image and likeness (NIL) compensation and the transfer portal it’s pretty much chaos in College SportsWorld today.

“We have an ecosystem where anything goes,” says Darren Heitner, a sports attorney based in Florida. “There is pay for play and improper inducements. The only solution is to finally treat these athletes as employees.”

The NCAA is the reason we’re in this mess. For decades, the NCAA has fought, legally and politically, for the retention of the amateur model.

“I’m indicting everyone, including myself,” says Kevin White, an athletic director at six different universities over the past 40 years. “We should have been far more progressive and forward thinking over the past 20 years or more.”

When it comes to NIL compensation for athletes, the NCAA hasn’t had a clue.

“Two and a half years of vague and contradictory NCAA memos, emails and ‘guidance’ about name, image and likeness (NIL) has created extraordinary chaos that student-athletes and institutions are struggling to navigate. In short, the NCAA is failing,” wrote University of Tennessee chancellor Donde Plowman in a letter to NCAA president Charlie Baker.

This week, things got messier for the NCAA. The attorneys general of Tennessee and Virginia filed an antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA which challenges its ban on the use of NIL compensation in the recruitment of college athletes.

Currently, in today’s Wild Wild West environment, college coaches are begging fans and alums to donate money to their schools’ NIL collectives so they can indirectly use the money to keep current athletes and recruit new ones.

“Fair or not, NIL and collective money is the most impactful component of college athletics right now,” according to Tom Livolsi, a co-founder of North Carolina State’s NIL collective.
“You have the success of these coaches, who get paid astronomical amounts of money, really depending on retaining and recruiting players using donors and the average fan’s money. Think about that. It’s not sustainable.”
College sports are stuck in an unregulated, quasi-professional model, which is causing problems for all involved, including the athletes. We need to move to a fully professionalized model for big-time college sports, which would include a union for athletes.

Yahoo! Sports reporter Ross Dellenger says it well: “It’s time not to dip a toe into the professional pool but to plunge both feet.”


Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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