NCAA vote will allow athletes to cash-in on fame

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HONOLULU (KHON2) — College sports are a multi-billion dollar industry. But until now strict rules prevented college athletes from cashing in on the action. That will soon be a thing of the past. The NCAA voted Tuesday to allow athletes to “benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness.”

Super agent Leigh Steinberg who represented some of the biggest athletes in the world said it’s long overdue.

“The NCAA action to consider modifying the restriction against athletes using their own names and likeness has been a sticking point for a long time…remember the scope of this. College athletes generated 14 or 15 billion dollars. The NCAA makes over a billion dollars so there are a lot of people getting wealthy in this equation, but not the athletes,” Steinberg explained.

Steinberg says its the first step in trying to balance the scales.

The NCAA was given a nudge in this direction recently when California passed a law allowing college athletes to monetize their fame that would take effect in 2023.

“The NCAA really tried to get ahead of the curve before this went state by state across the whole country. Their rule will probably be more restrictive, but the point is California sets the stage for many trends across the country and once college athletes are shown a little bit of freedom. Freedom has a way of catching on,” Steinberg said.

Student-athletes currently aren’t allowed to work or receive any income or payment.

“When you go to a college campus as an athlete, scholarship funds are really not enough money to live the way that non-athletes do, but non-athletes are able to supplement their income through working during the regular collegiate year or during the summer. Athletes are not. So they feel resentful and they feel ripped off. They see the big money the NCAA makes–their college makes. They see their number being sold in the student stores and that opens them up to taking money from alums or taking money from agents, which also is an NCAA violation,” explained Steinberg.

Though the rules and guidelines still need to be fleshed-out. Steinberg said athletes aren’t likely to make large sums of money and the NCAA would probably cap the amount of money each player would get.

“What you would see is deals that would not be explosively big cause they would be limited to a couple years while the athlete is on the college campus, but there are many different revenue streams from marketing that come from automotive, breakfast cereals and financial services and shoes and all there is of it. I think what you would see would be $5,000, $10,000, $25,000 to do that. The athlete would have restrictions in terms of how much he’d be able to do in terms of producing commercials and other types of commercial uses.”

Former UH offensive lineman (2014-2016) RJ Hollis said it could be a game-changer.

“I feel like, a lot of kids can now stay in college and fully develop as athletes and be able to leave with their college degrees and not really have the financial burden of trying to force yourself into the professionals early,” Hollis said.

Hollis said it might also motivate student-athletes to work even harder.

“Now you have even more incentive to go to class– to do what you’re supposed to because now on top of a scholarship, that’s money you lose out on if you skip school, if you skip your tutoring session. If it’s compensatory, now we can fine you if you’re late. In putting money into this, it almost kind of puts it in a professional aspect of, yes, you’re getting paid for it, but it also gives more of a professional accountability for the students. Now you’re getting money so you need to know that this is a privilege that’s being given to you and you have to be responsible with it,” Hollis explained.

Rich Miano, former UH defensive back (1982-1984), UH Football assistant coach and professional NFL player, said he thinks it’s going to be a huge benefit to the athletes.

“If you look back maybe seven, eight, nine years ago just in the State of Hawaii, just with Colt Brennan–he was so popular that people would be reselling helmets that he signed. (Selling) jerseys on Ebay. And all these sites make money and the athlete never was allowed to make money,” Miano explained.

But there are concerns it could be bad for smaller athletic programs

I think it hurts the mid-level teams. I think it’s going to help like the SCC, the PAC 12s, the Big 10, those conferences will get richer. It’s happening now with apparel contracts. It’s happening now with television contracts. There’s going to be a separation for the haves and have-nots,” Miano said.

In a statement, UH Athletic Director David Matlin said:

“I believe we need to continue to make advancements for our student-athletes. In the last few years, NCAA legislation has opened the door for stipends and increased nutrition for our student-athletes. We continue to work on initiatives to improve our student’s health and wellbeing.”

There is more that we need to do and hopefully this initiative will improve the collegiate experience. We, however, need to be careful of unintended consequences. It is imperative that we look after the interests of all of our student-athletes and not just a select few.

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