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It’s a bit overdue, but college athletes can be paid now

As of July 1, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has ruled that athletes are now able to make money off of their name, image and likeness.

It’s about time.

Every American has the right to make money when their NIL is used. With this in mind, it seems clear that college athletes would be entitled to some of the money that they help bring into universities and the NCAA in general.

This has been a controversial topic for years, though. Many believe that the education college athletes get when they are given athletic scholarships is enough of a reward.

I used to share this opinion.

“NCAA 14” is a college football video game by Electronic Arts (EA) that I used to play on my PlayStation 3 when it came out on July 9, 2013–almost eight years ago now.

Unfortunately for me, this was the last college football game that EA released because of a lawsuit that was headed by former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon regarding the notion that the NCAA was unlawfully prohibiting college athletes from receiving benefits for the use of their NIL.

Thanks a lot, Ed.

At the time, I thought it was selfish for the athletes to demand pay for playing a sport in college. They made a choice to continue playing after high school and they were already, in most cases, receiving a free education. On top of that, they got to see themselves in a video game. I thought that was all you could ask for.

Now, I see how wrong it is that the NCAA has been holding out on its players for so long.

The NCAA made over $1 billion in 2019. That number dropped to $519 million in 2020 due to COVID-19, but still. That’s way too much money being made by student-athletes for them to be excluded from the payout.

Some sports commentators like Paul Finebaum fear that this change will affect college football in a negative way. They believe it will hurt teams with star players since those players will be partnering with brands and companies, becoming distracted from their role on their respective teams.

I think this is a fair point in some ways, but, more than that, it shows how little guys like Finebaum think of the players’ ability to prioritize their responsibilities. It shouldn’t be assumed that the players are going to turn their focus towards the money solely.

This is a good thing.

Prominent players—not greedy NCAA executives—can now make money off of their talent. I don’t think that is going to cause them to lose sight of why they’re suiting up on Saturdays.

There are still rules that schools and players can violate—and I’m sure that some schools and players will violate them.

For example, players being recruited out of high school cannot receive money that would be used to persuade them to commit to a school. Recruiting violations are a common occurrence in college football, and I’m sure the new ruling will lead to plenty of recruiting scandals.

The point there is that while student-athletes can now make money off of their NIL, there are still guidelines to follow. As long as players do it the right way, they can make their money in peace and not have to worry about being punished by the NCAA anymore.

College football isn’t professional football, and it is true that the players are there voluntarily, but when you realize how much money the players are making for the NCAA, it seems almost criminal for them to exclude the players from reaping the benefits of their own work.

Now, thanks to the new ruling, it actually is criminal.

So, thanks a lot, Ed.

Written by Zach Edmondson, sports editor. Graphic courtesy of Gracie Lucas, former digital content editor. 

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