Big money changes NCAA game plan

Especially at major powers in the collegiate sports world, purely amateur athletics has been a myth for many years. Under-the-table gifts by well-to-do boosters have ensured that.

Now, however, even the pretense may be about to end. Last week, the NCAA Board of Governors voted to allow college and university athletes to “benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness.” In other words, the NCAA may be primed to allow athletes to be paid for endorsements and similar promotions.

NCAA officials insist the move is not the same as what is happening in California. There, a new state law makes it illegal for NCAA schools to ban athletes from being paid for endorsements, appearances and social media advertising.

It may be that the primary difference is that California has acted, while the NCAA is only at the stage of considering rules changes. At some point, however, the collegiate sports governing body seems likely to allow overt payments to athletes.

Once that Pandora’s box is opened, it can never be closed. Let us hope the NCAA devises reasonable, enforceable rules for payments to athletes.

One example of such a need is in one of the NCAA’s goals. According to The Associated Press, the association is intent on “protecting the recruiting environment and prohibiting inducements to select, remain at, or transfer to a specific institution.”

Lots of luck with that. Say, potential football recruit, you’re aware that Company A, always a big promoter of our program, hands out big endorsement payments, aren’t you?” Wink, wink.

The die may be cast. NCAA officials are unlikely to be talked out of an earth-shattering change in “amateur athletics.” Let us hope they have a good game plan.


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