KSL+: NCAA to Reexamine Rules Banning Athletes from Profiting Off NIL

Jun 17, 2021, 6:29 PM

Today we’re talking about the push to allow college athletes to get paid. This is part of a years-long debate about whether outside parties should be allowed to pay college athletes for their name, likeness, and image under current NCAA rules. It’s not allowed, but it seems like that’s about to change. And we’re here at the sports department at KSL to talk to Sam Farnsworth about.

Editor’s note: interviews edited lightly for clarity and readability

Matt Rascon: Alright, Sam, reporter and anchor here at KSL. You’ve been covering sports for 19, 20 years, break this down for us, this whole debate surrounding college athletes getting paid?

Sam Farnsworth: Well, it’s been a long, ongoing debate for several years. College athletes have felt like schools, and the NCAA in general have capitalized off of their success, off of their image off of their likeness. It really began with video games. They would have college athletes on the cover a video games that they would see no money. But it’s been a debate, a conversation that’s been going for a very long time now. And it seems like there might be some common ground that might be getting reached.

Matt Rascon: Just to get this out of the way when we’re talking about name image likeness, what are we talking about?

Sam Farnsworth: So endorsement deals really. So a prominent, successful athlete that people recognize in the street– Zach Wilson might be one of the more recent ones, the quarterback at BYU from this last year, who was picked number two over on the NFL Draft. People in Utah would probably recognize him in the street pretty easily. He could make some money, selling cars or posting something on his Twitter account endorsing his favorite restaurant, local restaurant or business, and that’s something in the past, the NCAA is like, “No, no, no, you cannot do that. You’re an amateur athlete, you don’t make money going to college to play sports.”

Even though he’s not necessarily being paid to play the sport, he’s being paid to endorse something with the name that he’s built, the image that he’s built playing his sport, and using his likeness to do so. So that’s the deal that they’re kind of getting out here. You’re still not going to get paid by the school to play. But you can go out and make money however you see fit just like any other student could. They could go out make money however they wanted, and still be a student at the school. Now athletes are starting to get to that point as well.

Matt Rascon: Okay. So a couple years ago, the NCAA seemed like they were still just very much admitting, this is an amateur that’s not supposed to be paid. Can you talk a little bit about the reasoning there? Were there some good reasons to say they shouldn’t be getting this money?

Sam Farnsworth: I think a lot of it just has to do with tradition, the history of college sports, and outside of football, the tie ins from 100 years ago that that colleges had towards the Olympics, and just kind of maintain that amateurism. It’s not something you’re doing for money, it’s something you’re doing for love, for the reputation of the school, things like that. And I think people were hanging on to tradition, a little bit, maybe a lot longer than, than they should have. But that’s what it really came down to, they really want to separate the distinction between college sports and professional sports. Professionals get paid money, you guys aren’t professionals, yet, you’re here for an education, you’re here to represent our brand, whether it’s the school or the NCAA, and that was the main separation. You can’t have your own brand, right? They didn’t want them to do that. And it’s fair or unfair as it may have seemed, that’s the line that they drew in the sand and they just would not budge.

Matt Rascon: Some of the argument has been well, they ARE getting something. They’re getting the education, they’re getting paid for education, a lot of them, get housing, meals, things like that. And so, why isn’t that enough? So, what is the argument then to say, No, they should actually be making money off of this.

Sam Farnsworth: So, and I agree with those people who argue that, okay, you are getting an education, you’re getting a paid for education, which is something a lot of college kids don’t get, and it costs a lot of money as most people know. They’re getting that part covered. However, again, it kind of goes back to the fact that, I can be a communications major, but I can go out and make money however I want to make my money but with college athletes, it was like, No, no, no, no, no. We’re giving you housing. We’re giving you books and education. We’re giving you food, you don’t need to go out and make money. Let’s use a college football player, college basketball player or even a women’s college basketball player. It’s basically a full time job right there. You’re in school, a full-time student, you have to be a full time student too. So you’re taking your 12, 14, 16 credits, whatever it is, which we know how long that takes, that’s a majority of your day. But then right after that, or before that earlier in the day, you’re still practicing for several hours a day in training. And it’s really kind of another full-time job. On top of that, where does a student athlete have time to go and get a full-time job to help compensate for whatever the scholarship isn’t giving them and that’s been something difficult. One example I can think of, from 2004, Jeremy Blum. He was an Olympic skier and competed here in Salt Lake City in the 2002 Olympics in the moguls. He was also a college football player at the University of Colorado. And he was a very good college football player–among the nation’s best in returning, and he had the legitimate prospect of maybe going to the NFL, but he still was only a sophomore. After the 2002 Olympics and the success that he had, he was able to earn some money for endorsements, which he claimed helped him prepare for the 2006 Olympic Games. And he needed that money for the support to train and prepare to go to Torino. And the NCAA said no, no, no, wait, wait, wait, but you’re a college football player. You can’t be making money, even though it had nothing to do with football. They came down hard on him and they made a ruling that he was not eligible to play college football anymore. So he quit college football. He tried for as long as he could to stay in it. But he quit college football to pursue skiing and competed in the 2006 Olympics. After that, he pursued the NFL and he played in the NFL for two or three seasons. But the NCAA just wouldn’t budge. Even though it had nothing to do with the sport he was playing, they wouldn’t budge on the fact that he was making some endorsement deals off of his image.

Matt Rascon: We talked with Josh Grant, who played basketball for the U in the 90s. A lot of his argument was we’re going to be throwing money at these kids who are now are going to be start getting 1000s of dollars every month,

Josh Grant: Quite honestly, to me, it all boils down to the NCAA. If the NCAA really wanted to fix this 10, 15 years ago, they shouldn’t have been putting in these ridiculous rules that you can’t work and you can’t get a job. I mean, I had teammates that couldn’t afford to take their girlfriend to get an ice cream cone. Because how are they going to get the money to do it? They couldn’t even buy a car. Maybe they could get on the back of their bike, but they didn’t have a bike, that costs money. It’s something that should have been fixed a long time ago, and they just kept getting more and more stringent. And now they’re just creating more and more ways to create a bigger gap between the haves and the have nots. I mean, this all comes down to the NCAA trying to please people that are going to make them money, it’s going to open up just another box of problems.

This idea that you’re going to give kids a bunch of money–that’s trouble, you’re going to hire agents for these kids? They’re going to walk around with their entourage behind them as they as they go to class. And it just is opening up so many problems that, to me, it’s ridiculous. And where do they learn that? Is that another class they have to take in school? I mean, it’s just kind of silly.

Sam Farnsworth: Those are great arguments and the NCAA, I think as they move forward, there are going to be some obstacles like the institution itself and the NCAA. On top of that, they’re still probably going to try to differentiate the college sport between the pro sports so in what endorsement deals they can make, what brands they can endorse. I would imagine you might not want college athletes endorsing alcohol or something that. I would imagine there will be some lines drawn. BYU being a religious institution probably has their own set of standards as well. And I would imagine also that when it comes to the school, that if you’re a Nike brand, they would probably say, Okay, look, if you understand this, the team is you kind of got to stick to the brand of the team. I don’t know exactly how that part is going to work.

But I think one of the big differences between maybe now and when Josh Grant was an athlete as well, is you have social media, and it just opens up a whole new world, a whole new reach that these athletes have. The number one pick in the NFL Draft last year, Trevor Lawrence, the quarterback at Clemson. Hugely successful college quarterback, they estimated that his Instagram page was worth about $360,000. So it’s not like he’s still making millions but he can make a few 100,000 bucks off of his image and likeness. I think that’s one of the big differences now between then. You’ve got just a different reach that these athletes can use their social media accounts. I don’t think we’re gonna see millions of dollars thrown at these kids. Still, I don’t think we’re to that point yet. And the NCAA doesn’t really want to get to that point. That’s where they want to differentiate college and pros, right?

Matt Rascon: We also talked to Jonathan Tavernari, who played BYU basketball, and graduated in 2010.

Jonathan Tavernari: I do think that an overhaul and a change of the rules need to take place. Because the current model is not working, right. But I also don’t think that throwing money and just saying everybody can get paid for everything, I don’t think that’s the solution is that

Matt Rascon: He has a unique story because he actually went back to Brazil and played for his national team. But he couldn’t get paid like all the other players on the team, because was still playing for BYU.

Jonathan Tavernari: I could always have just gone and gotten a six figure job in Europe and go play. But to me, I stayed in college to get an education. Obviously, you want to make money. But I wouldn’t trade my college experience for anything. I didn’t think that I was lacking. I didn’t think that I was missing out on things.

Matt Rascon: But he also kind of pushed back against the way that things were going, where college athletes would be able to get money.

Jonathan Tavernari: How do you address maybe having a student athlete from BYU being approached by Bacardi or Corona to advertise alcohol? But with the name, image and likeness, you can do that. But because of the honor code, you can then sell does that give an advantage to a different school? Will he transfer? Because they are offering him $100,000 $200,000? Because he’s one of the main players? Right? And so how do you deal with that? I feel like this entire thing, it will cause more

I’m a firm believer that a fund should be set aside, that once they graduate from college, then they can tap into that fund. That’s something that I absolutely think you should change. Mainly because if you’re going to college, you’re going to college to be able to get an education.

Sam Farnsworth: I’ve never been a big supporter of the schools being able to pay like, signing a contract but maybe advising them in how to invest the money or set up the money in a trust fund, that’s probably a smart way to do it. But at the same time, again, if any other student makes their money, however they make it, they’re either going to blow it, they’re going to save it, they’re going to do whatever. And I think that’s part of the learning process. We see that in professional sports. Professional athletes going broke after five years, because they just didn’t learn how to spend and so maybe setting up education, classes for the student athletes on, “Okay, you’re going to be able to start making money, what are you going to do with your money?” Help advise them so they know what to do with it. But again, I don’t think you can control how they’re going to use the money. But giving them the opportunity and opening up the doorways for them to make money, I think is the right move to be able to make it on their own.

Whether it’s endorsements, whether it’s their social media pages, however it is. It just seems right. In a college state like the state of Utah is if you’re successful athlete here, there’s going to be car dealerships or restaurants or whatever. The moment Zach Wilson said he’s going pro almost immediately, we saw on his Twitter and Instagram accounts, tweets on behalf of cell phones, car dealerships, Chipotle. They were lining up saying, “Hey, we’ll give you this money or these items or whatever.”

Matt Rascon: It’s been a problem for decades. 2019, California decides we’re going to change things around. We’re not going to wait on the NCAA anymore. This is how it’s going to be. Businesses can now pay athletes. And I think since then, eighteen state have now passed laws. It’s sort of a snowball effect now.

Sam Farnsworth: If California didn’t start this, the NCAA was going to sit back and wait as long as they could in fight against that. Let’s be honest, they NCAA as an organization, profits a lot off of the success of their sporting events. March Madness Basketball Tournament makes them millions and millions of dollars every year. Students, the basketball players don’t make any money going to the NCAA basketball tournament. California  started a snowball and pushed it from there. And I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the schools– institutions like the UCLA, San Diego State, whatever, that really helped kind of push towards that to say, “Hey, let’s pass a law here. We don’t have to wait on the NCAA.”

And why would they want that? Well, ultimately, it might help a little bit with recruiting, too. “Hey, you’re just trying to decide between UCLA and Texas? Well, let me tell you, over in California, you can make money off of your name, image and likeness as well. So come over here.” So, I’m sure recruiting will play a big role in this as it moves forward as well. And that’s why the NCAA needs to make a uniform thing here. So it doesn’t skew the balance of competition.

Matt Rascon: As it is now, after July 1, which is when a lot of these go into effect, Utah, maybe not in a good spot.

Sam Farnsworth: I know that they want something to happen here. And so the NCAA, they understand that it’s in their best interest to keep the the balance of competition or the field of competition as balanced as possible, when it even comes to name image and likeness. So I think that’s why we’re starting to see them try to push as quickly as they can to get something approved and passed.

Matt Rascon: So what does this mean for you? What does this mean for the sports department? What is what does it mean for after game interviews? Are you going to have to pay? Or have less access?

Sam Farnsworth: I would guess not. Most of our interviews still have to go through the avenues of the school to be set up. But, you see it in NASCAR, right, where they say, “First I gotta thank such and such tire company and such and such oil” and all this before they even answer your question. Who knows, maybe a college athlete will be like, “Well, thanks to whatever restaurant, whatever car dealership for helping me get to this point.” Maybe we’ll start hearing that.


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KSL+: NCAA to Reexamine Rules Banning Athletes from Profiting Off NIL