by Jack Bechta
August 07, 02013
While Johnny Manziel is being currently being investigated by the NCAA for potentially selling autographs, I want to ask if you’ve ever noticed that we never hear of college baseball players getting suspended for violating NCAA rules? College baseball players cozy up to agents in high school and ride the fence between being a pro and being an amateur. Why, because they have an option of going pro before college. Thus, the NCAA gives them different treatment than they do football players. College football brings in over $10 billion dollars alone in TV revenue. Baseball commands a small fraction of that amount.
Under NCAA rules, college football players are prohibited from profiting in any way. They can’t go pro out of high school and cannot negotiate the terms of their scholarship. They are limited to the kind of outside work they can do, how much they can make and where they can make it. In reality they don’t have time for a part time job.
College football players rarely experience spring break, are expected to be in school for the summer, and give about 32 to 40 hours per week during the season and about half that in the spring and summer. I truly don’t think the public understands what football players give to their respective programs. I also believe it’s worth more than the scholarship they receive in exchange for their services.
As the college football coffers get fatter and the NFL rookie contracts got smaller (under the new CBA for draftees), the economic balance of service versus revenues is out of whack favoring college football. As college coaches, admins, commissioners and NCAA salaries steadily increase, college stipends and benefits for the players stay the same. Yes, there was an increase in the ceiling on monthly living expense stipends, but if you really look at the language and how many schools actually passed it on to the players, it really amounts to window dressing.
If Johnny Manziel did break the rules and did earn $7,500 for signing helmets, then he broke the rules and should be punished. In my opinion not severely, maybe a game or two at the most. However, it’s a small example of the earning power these players have while in college. The powers that be in college football want to reserve that earning power for its own interests. I’m saying that there needs to be a serious adjustment in favor of the players. Here are some practical ideas of how those revenues can be passed on to those who are producing them.
Extended medical benefits: Any NFL GM or team doctor will tell you that by the time the players get to the Combine they are damaged goods. They have experienced multiple concussions, torn labrums, and physical trauma throughout their knees and backs. Unfortunately, as those players start aging and experiencing pain and further breakdowns of their body, they have no recourse. Lifting weights at ages 18 through 22 takes a long-term toll on the body. We still don’t know the long-term effects to the brain from concussions but the studies are showing that long-term damage does exist. College football should be held accountable for their part of the wear and tear on the body of those scholarship athletes. Medical benefits should come in the form of insurance available for those who may not have the coverage they need.
Deferred trust accounts for off field income: The NCAA should allow players to earn up to $50,000 per year in endorsements, appearances and likeness usage. All deals must be pre approved by the schools compliance departments and the monies deposited directly in a trust account that can only be accessed after the player has graduated and exhausted his eligibity. Paid appearances should be limited to five per year. Players should also receive a royalty (about 10 to 17 percent) on all jersey sales, which will also be deposited in the account.
Free graduate degrees: Football players should be offered free graduate degrees from their respective schools. A player should have a seven-year window to start and finish a degree after he graduates. For any football player who has never graduated and played four years for his university, school should be free to finish his degree.
Increased stipends: I actually agree that players should not have too much cash in their pocket, but the current stipends should be increased by a hard $300 to $500 dollars per month, depending on the cost of living in their respective geographical areas. Portions of the stipends could also be given in the form of a voucher for hotel rooms, gas and/or travel expenses for parents when they come to campus for a game. Many parents and families really struggle financially to travel long distances to see their son play. Most players I represent tell me they had to pay for parking while at practice. The funny part is that most of the meters don’t go past two hours. Players are then forced to buy mopeds to avoid parking fees. That’s ridiculous!
As the college football revenues continue to increase, it’s like a dam about to burst. The NCAA and the new super conferences should act before the players and their parents figure out how to come to together and force them to cough up more green. It’s just the right thing to do. If schools can pay coaches and commissioners thick seven figure salaries, the money is there to responsibly pass on to those sacrificing the most and working the hardest to make our Saturdays entertaining. 96% of college football players WON’T go on to make millions in the pros, but they will leave the game physically damaged and underpaid for their time.
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