Paying major revenue college athletes — ergo, football and men’s basketball players — is a hot button issue. The debate will only grow more voluminous the more universities and corporations cash in on student-athletes.
Kentucky basketball player Nerlens Noel’s injury sustained two weeks ago further fueled chatter about amateurism, antitrust, and various other legal matters at play with the NCAA and professional leagues. Another story made headlines in recent weeks that may plant the seeds of college athletes seeing a payday.
Those around Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel had the foresight to establish the JMAN2 Corporation, which secured intellectual property trademarks on the name Johnny Football.
The Johnny Football lawsuit against Texas man Eric Vaughn could result in damages that Manziel would be awarded. Now, always at the ready to athletes are not profiting from their own likeliness, the NCAA is putting a stop to any precedent the Manziel case might set for college athletes receiving court orchestrated settlements.
“They specifically called that out,” Texas A&M vice president of business development Shane Hinckley said. “If it was an orchestrated event between a student-athlete and a booster, then that would fall under the enforcement arm. So that’s pretty much out.”
The Manziel lawsuit might be small potatoes on a micro level; at the macro level, it brings to mind an interesting concept of high profile college athletes having a corporate infrastructure in place before they go pro.
The NCAA may want to avoid opening the can of worms that is revenue sharing in merchandise sales — but what if a percentage of all Nike football jerseys using a player’s number goes into a fund for that player? Perhaps if these operate like a trust, with the NCAA monitoring how much is removed from the fund, it lets the athlete see some of the money he’s generating for the school and private businesses.
It can also begin a nest egg for those athletes who are derailed by injury. Take Marcus Lattimore, who suffered two debilitating injuries before even reaching draft eligibility minimums. Lattimore is recovering and seeks a return to action by the start of the NFL season. But if he couldn’t, a trust subsidized by a percentage of the money his likeness made for South Carolina, Under Armour and Electronic Arts would give him something of a safety net.
The opposite side of this coin is who establishes and monitors these hypothetical funds. This can become a particularly sticky issue, opening the world of sports agents not only to the college game, but high schools. Manziel is in a very small minority, coming from a wealthy upbringing. His family has the money to create a Johnny Football Corporation, but how many athletes can say the same?
They’re no less entitled to a share of revenue they generate. However, signing at a university is a difficult enough choice for a teenager. Add the high pressure sales tactics of agents to the equation, and it opens an entirely different Pandora’s box.
There’s no easy solution, but the discussion will only continue to evolve as we’ve learned these last couple weeks.