College Football: Proposal for NCAA player compensation could mean more than ‘fair play.’

(Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /

The recent NCAA proposal for player compensation is expected to pass in time for the 2021-22 year. The results of ‘fair pay’ for college football and other NCAA sports may be wilder than expected.

The NCAA plan for player compensation includes more athletes than those playing college football. Players in other college sports will have an opportunity to profit. The range of marketability will be wide, with the most financial benefit accruing to college football and men’s basketball players.

The proposal brings forth a degree of ‘fair labor’ equity to the portion of college sports that generate massive revenue. What could be fair in labor not sharing with management and ownership? America’s market economy justifies the long-debated and often, hoped for, change.

What could go wrong? As the premise of ‘unintended consequences’ defines, not all future wrongs can be known in advance. Some wrong can already be foreseen. A vocal minority is already describing the soon-to-be environment in college sports as the ‘Wild Wild West.’

Few can argue men’s basketball has been a ‘Wild West’ environment for more than a quarter-century. Money, primarily from the shoe and apparel companies, so taints college basketball, almost anything goes. Ample proof abounds. Coaches like Will Wade of LSU openly boast of buying players and no penalties ensue.

The NCAA has, perhaps even by choice, been inept at punishing cheating in college basketball. Why would anyone believe NCAA controls over the new player compensation rules will be any different?

Some may contend the new plan will become another way money buys championships. A jaded argument accepts that money already determines championships, both openly and surreptitiously.

Others disagree. Louisville’s Scott Satterfield is one who believes the new rules will allow top programs to orchestrate player raids.

"what’s to say that the University of Alabama likes my player and they come to him and approach him on a side deal? ‘Listen, come here, we’ve got this car dealer that’s going to pay you $50,000 a year to advertise for them and you’ve got an opportunity to win a national championship"

Many coaches and Kansas basketball coach, Bill Self is one, are particularly concerned about the proposed compensation rules, plus the possibility of creating free agency for players. The NCAA is not talking about free agency, but a proposed free pass for a one-time transfer. Though not free agency, a one-time pass is close. As Bill Self explains,

"Now there’s going to be 2,500 to 3,000 kids transferring every year just in our sport and where do you draw the line? What’s the drop-dead date you can transfer? Can you transfer the first day before classes? Can you just leave universities and programs high and dry because somebody else on another team transferred and a scholarship became open?"

Nick Saban has been supportive of players being allowed some form of compensation. But, he has long been critical of college sports embracing components of free agency.

If none of the above creates pause, what about the impact on high school athletes? Will college football recruiting become as rife with seedy money deals as college basketball? High school basketball players often damage their future marketability by aligning themselves with individuals driven by self-interest.

Clay Horning writing for The Norman Transcript voiced legitimate concerns,

"Where there’s money to be made, there will be a swarm of vultures offering their skills to help it be made in return for a slice of it and how many athletes will get in bed with the wrong people trying to make it?"

Then there are the potential impacts on team locker rooms. There will be significant disparity in the ‘market value’ of individual players. Jealousy, harmful to team chemistry, may occur. And what about players making pivotal mistakes in games, costing ‘star players’ money because their team fails to win a championship or make the CFB Playoff? The ‘we’ in team cohesion is bound to suffer.

Players in top programs are already compensated with free education, housing, meals and snacks designed by nutritionists, superb training staff and facilities, and affiliation with the program’s brand. Combined, it is no small compensation.

Should they also be paid? Yes. Why not, instead of uncontrollable third parties dispensing the money, allow the schools to pay them directly. A counter-argument is not every FBS school can afford to pay its athletes. The NCAA could remedy those deficiencies by allocating a pool of money for schools to use. There is plenty of profit in college football and men’s basketball deals to fund a pool. The NCAA could seed it with a big chunk of the massive profits it makes off the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

There are reasons why the ‘pooled money’ for player compensation plan’ would not work. If the compensation is equalized for every scholarship player, players with higher marketing values will be displeased. The big reason the pool would not happen is the NCAA, the Power Five conferences and the high-revenue programs would have to give money away.

Next. NCAA expected to allow players to be paid. dark

Some suggest the result will be the ‘richer get richer’ – as in Alabama football and Kentucky basketball and other elite programs. If so, will more fairness for players result in less competitive fairness for most programs?