Don’t look now, but the Almighty Dollar is once more in all probability about to mess up college football, basketball, baseball, and every other NCAA sport you can think of. (Excuse me, for you English majors out there, I meant to say, “every other NCAA sport of which you can think.”) Apparently, NIL (Name, Image, and Likeness) monetary deals with university athletes haven’t yet sufficiently lined the pockets of those who don a uniform to proudly represent institutions of higher learning on the fields of valor.

Up until July 1, 2021, student athletes were forbidden to accept any type of remuneration for their services except, of course, a totally free education via scholarships. But when the NCAA approved the NIL policy, all bets were off. (Well, technically, with legalized gambling now available in many states, that’s not quite true. But that’s another story.) College athletes are now at liberty to collect mucho dinero through sponsorships or endorsements or apparently virtually any authorized use of their name, image, or likeness.

As expected, the stars of many campuses’ sports-related endeavors have reaped the most rewards, often to the tune of staggering amounts. Reports are that million-dollar-plus deals have been secured by players such as LeBron James’ son (Bronny), at USC, Texas quarterback Arch Manning, UGA’s Carson Beck, LSU gymnast Livvy Dunne, and, of course, Iowa’s phenom basketball player Caitlin Clark.

But what about the third-string left guard on the gridiron, the 12th man/woman on the hardwood squad, the utility fielder on the diamond, or the subs in any competition who get playing time only when the outcome of the game or match is no longer in doubt? They’re not seeing bulging bank accounts. Many are still getting that free education through scholarships, but that doesn’t buy a new car or clothes or the latest must-have technology gadget.

Well, worry no longer for who might actually be the true student athletes on campus. The NCAA and the nation’s five biggest sports’ conferences have agreed to share close to $2.8 billion with more than 14,000 former and current college athletes who claimed previous rules kept them from sponsorship and endorsement deals as far back as 2016.

Why is that important? It seems the door is now ajar and about to be kicked down to let in a new compensation model that apparently will allow each school to share up to $21 million in revenue with athletes each year. And not just the superstars. At least, that’s the idea. Anybody think that’s how it’s going to work? And what could possibly go wrong with giving big bucks to teenagers? Since the new revenue-sharing is supposed to start in 2025, we’ll soon see. (That’ll give us all something to talk about AFTER the presidential election, right?)

Back to the original thought of messing up of the college games. Let’s say your team has an amazing leader. Could be a quarterback, prolific 3-point shooter, star pitcher, or any pivotal student athlete who can propel his or her squad in any intercollegiate sport to a national championship. During this superstar’s freshman season, perhaps the college powers-that-be open a $500,000 savings account in said student’s name. As expected, he/she has a great year. In the sophomore year, the offer is upped to a cool $1 million. But wait! It seems another school, one in the same conference even, has seen this talent on display and offers $2 million. No doubt you can see where this is going. And it won’t just be the superstars who up and leave a team to follow the money.

It could well be that with this new Pay-to-Play system in effect, every college sport will follow what has happened so many times in basketball. Student-athletes won’t have to go pro (as the roundballers now do), they can instead continue to get that free education and bank a few bucks along the way.

Far be it from me to say college kids shouldn’t get paid for their efforts. Their schools are definitely making substantial amounts off of their talents on the fields of competition. But why not cut right to the chase? Why interfere with possible championships by pressuring the athletes to attend class at all? At the very least, make classroom learning optional. Or how about this? Since there’s a better-than-average chance that any money given to 18-to 22-year-olds won’t reside in their wallets for long, make it mandatory for every athlete to at least learn how to balance a checkbook, find out how compound interest works, and be told how much an IRA that’s invested early can amount to in 40 years. That way, maybe, just maybe some of the recipients will have a modicum of money left when they’re no longer playing college ball.

©MMXXIV. William J. Lewis, III – Freelance Writer