College athletes can now share in wealth they create for their schools

A new law involving college athletes in California finally rights a wrong (“California Will Let College Athletes Sign Endorsement Deals,” Time, Oct. 1).  For too long colleges have been getting rich off the backs of athletes, who have up to now been prevented by NCAA rules from monetizing their talent.

California’s new law applies to students at both public and private institutions.  They can now get paid for signing endorsement deals, which can be quite lucrative.  In the past, they were forbidden from doing so by the claim that the distinction between amateurs and pros would be destroyed.   Yet tennis players have been permitted to accept up to $10,000 in prize money each year.  Moreover, many schools pay athletes cost-of-living stipends of $2,000 to $4,000.  Granted such payments are not huge, but they indicate a double standard.

It’s time to accept that athletics are big business in college. I’m glad that athletes  will now be able to get part of the money .

(To post a comment, click on the title of this blog.)

2 Replies to “College athletes can now share in wealth they create for their schools”

  1. I see two sides to this issue.

    In my opinion, college athletes in the major sports at the major colleges really are employees — the college accepts (hires) them based on their athletic credentials rather than their academic credentials + the college pays them a salary (free/reduced tuition and room/board support) + the college requires that they spend many hours/week — very much like a regular workweek — on practicing their sport.

    Generally, in employment issues, I’m on the side of the employee rather than the employer. So — my gut says the athletes (employees) should be able to monetize their athletic ability/fame via endorsements.

    On the other hand, in most employment situations, the employee is entitled to only the negotiated salary/benefits and the employer is entitled to whatever $ the employee generates through the employee’s work on behalf of the employer. An obvious example is the research scientist for a drug company who develops new drug X to treat ulcers; the scientist cannot sell the rights to drug X and pocket the $ himself; the drug company owns all the rights to drug X and only the drug company, not the scientist, can monetize the drug X discovery.

    Seems like the college athlete situation is very close to the research scientist situation. If the college athlete were not playing (being employed) by the major college in the major sport, the college athlete would have nothing to sell in the endorsement market. Following that analogy, I’d argue that the college, not the athlete, is entitled to the $ from any endorsement deals — at least while the athlete is still playing (working) for the college.

    The problem with my analogy, of course, is the fact that the NCAA rules limit the athlete’s (employee’s) ability to monetize his/her playing (working) vis-a-vis the college (the employer). To apply my research-scientist analogy, the college athlete should be able to negotiate a real salary/benefits from the college, not just tuition/room-and-board. Colleges and the NCAA do not support allowing the athletes to demand/receive a real salary. Therefore, my employee analogy fails. So — that leaves me on the fence re whether college athletes should be able to monetize their “employment” via endorsement $.

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  2. Labor Lawyer: The lab scientist at least is being paid a salary plus benefits while he toils on a new discovery. So even though he cannot profit from his discovery, he gets compensation. In contrast, college athletes get nothing at all under the old rules. The new California law would remedy that injustice.

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