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Thinking out loud: Thoughts on college athletes being paid

John Rooke
October 04, 2019 - 12:34 pm
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Thinking out loud…while wondering where common sense, or cents, has gone…when it comes to the NCAA…

 

  • SMH on a lot this week, for certain.  Must be the madness on the horizon.   

 

  • It’s known as “SB 206” in California, but it could soon mean a “KO” for schools, administrators, athletes and fans all across the country. It’s the “Fair Pay to Play” bill signed into law this week by California Governor Gavin Newsom.

 

  • Already, as many as 10 states (though none yet in New England – just wait) are scrambling to enact legislation for similar bills.  California’s new law, which would enable student athletes to receive compensation for the use of their name, likeness or image and keep the NCAA from punishing them for receiving that compensation, won’t go into effect until 2023.

 

  • Predictably, the NCAA is apoplectic about the law, and ready to fight its’ application in court.  The NCAA has a solid case and may very well win it.  Tough to tell a private, national organization (that’s the NCAA) what they can or can’t do in an individual state.  There is legal precedent in the U.S. Supreme Court.

 

  • But the groundswell in the belief that college athletics make so much money these days that we’ve gone well beyond the value of scholarships being enough compensation…continues to rise when the NCAA tells us and shows us they’re a Billion Dollar Organization and the industry of college athletics is a multi-billion dollar bidness.

 

  • Those states choosing to jump on this now, are political nitwits.  Now is NOT the time to rush into a judgment just to appear “politically correct.”  If anything, waiting and watching is advisable.  Why?

 

  • To start with, the NCAA-appointed committee that includes Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman is scheduled to make recommendations on a path leading to potential compensation for student athletes later this month.  Undoubtedly, there will be caps and limitations in order to keep the playing field among all schools as level as possible.

 

  • Here’s what I think would work – and the original idea comes from South Carolina basketball coach Frank Martin:  Let student-athletes earn whatever they can through advertisements, endorsements, autographs, jersey sales…whatever.  A free-market free-for-all.

 

  • But hold any gains in escrow until the athlete has finished his or her eligibility, or so chooses to forfeit their eligibility.

 

  • This way, potential earnings aren’t restricted, and it gives them a nest egg to fall back upon once they leave school.  Illegal inducements and recruiting tactics will never completely disappear, but this would certainly help keep ‘under the table’ deals to a minimum.  Everything would, or at least appear to be, on the up-and-up. 

 

  • Amateurism, at least on the surface, is saved.  For the time being and for whatever it’s worth, if that’s what you’re after.  I’ll remind you; pros are eligible for the Olympics these days, and we’re all still alive.

 

  • What’s to keep a car dealership in, say, Providence from offering a student-athlete a chance to represent their business interests?  PC is a smaller school than most in Division I, but this keeps the Friars, in theory, on the same plane as an Ohio State or Alabama.

 

  • Pro athletes are out in force supporting Pay to Play – but why would you pay them any mind?  They’re already getting paid.  The NCAA, natch, is against it.  Schools are overwhelmingly leery of Pay for Play, and most don’t want to support it – unless they’re forced to support it. 

 

  • Or, unless the NCAA comes up with a viable alternative – like Val Ackerman’s committee plan TBD – what you’re likely to witness is the end of college athletics as we’ve known them.  Secession by the big schools from the little schools.  Haves will begat Have Nots.

 

  • But consider this, too: What happens when an anonymous special teamer blocks a punt, or a backup point guard hits a game-winning free throw? Could drunken alumni fill up an athlete’s GoFundMe account in celebration?  What about the cross-country runner who wins a national title or the field hockey goalie who ends up an All-American?

 

  • I don’t believe opportunity would exist for football and basketball players, exclusively.  The idea here is to be inclusive.

 

  • Keep politics out of it.  But at the very least, politics has forced us to admit the obvious – there’s very little these days that’s amateurish about the NCAA.  It’s big bidness.  They don’t need to share their own wealth, but they do need to make the river of riches that runs through them accessible for the rank-and-file.  You know, the student-athletes.

 

  • Personally, I’ve done an about-face on this.  Largely, because today’s definition of amateurism has changed.  Professionals now take part in the Olympic Games, once the purview of the world’s best amateurs alone.  We don’t live in that world any longer.

 

  • Here’s another reason why states should wait on the courts to decide this, however – schools will now stop scheduling and playing California teams, fearing they’ll be at a competitive “disadvantage.” 

 

  • The NCAA will, if they lose in court, have the right to ban California teams and schools from their championships.  No UCLA, USC, Stanford or Cal in the NCAA Tournament? 

 

  • It’s sacrilegious to think about.  Remember all the conference realignment stuff from 15 years ago, and how it changed today’s map?  Because of TV money, mostly?

 

  • THIS would be the beginning of Intercollegiate Armageddon.  Again, all because of money, and sharing it with those responsible for producing much of it.

 

  • Ready for “A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie?”  Why am I picturing Bill Belichick beat-boxing to roaring approval at the Dunk?  Ed Cooley beat-boxing or rapping, maybe?

 

  • Seems like it’s always something, doesn’t it?  Two Friars are nursing bumps and bruises from practice already – Nate Watson has a sore knee and Luwane Pipkins has a hamstring issue, keeping them from the floor at present.  Only eight players suited up for practice this past Wednesday.

 

  • Kalief Young has also been out of practice for the last couple of weeks, Ed Cooley confirmed on this week.  But we’ve still got two weeks to go before the first exhibition, and the first game that counts is a month away.

 

  • With the Big East moving to 20 conference games beginning next year (2020-21), you can certainly expect there will be December conference games likely popping up on the schedule. 

 

  • Fair?  The coaches won’t like it much, having to take a gut punch early, but their bosses approved the addition of UConn to the league to get to this point, and they love the round-robin, everybody-plays-everybody-home-and-home, so…

 

  • At least one, and probably two Big East games for every team (UConn, hello!) should hit the slate before the start of the new calendar year next season.

 

  • #Rookestradamus has stepped up with a Big East preseason prediction one week before Media Day at Madison Square Garden: 1) Seton Hall 2) Villanova 3) Georgetown 4) Providence 5) Marquette 6) Xavier 7) Creighton 8) Butler 9) St. John’s 10) DePaul

 

  • Are the Friars ranked too high?  Are Marquette, Xavier, Creighton and Butler too low?  Spots 1 through 7, and maybe 8, will be skintight this season.  Should make for an interesting league schedule, and the madness to follow in March.

 

  • While the Friars have their ‘secret scrimmage’ scheduled for October 27th at Purdue (in Indianapolis, FYI), URI also has set up one of these with Boston College at Chestnut Hill for October 20th.  Shhh, it’s a secret. 

 

  • Stupid.  No one can watch these games.  No one can go.  No one can report or cover or talk about them, really.  Wouldn’t we all be better off if we just opened it up, sold tickets and gave the proceeds to worthwhile causes?  Just sayin’.

 

  • Six former Hockey Friars on Opening Night NHL rosters, by this count:  Noel Acciari with Florida, John Gilmour in Buffalo, Mark Jankowski in Calgary, Kevin Rooney with the Devils, Tim Schaller in Vancouver and Brandon Tanev with Pittsburgh. 

 

  • That’s a program.  Competing for titles, developing pros.  Remember that, too, when you consider this years’ Hockey Friars are Young – with a capital ‘Y.’

 

  • Why wasn’t National Taco Day this week on Tuesday? 

 

  • Never thought Stephen Gostkowski’s kicking woes were too much of a problem, that he’d have plenty of time to work out whatever kinks he had.  But that kink (in his left hip) now needs surgery, which could explain a few things.

 

  • Mike Nugent, welcome to the suck.  And make sure you don’t.

 

  • Is it possible we could just admit Buffalo has a pretty good defense, too?  Yes, TB12 wasn’t his usual self.  The offensive line is a mess right now.  There’s not enough receiver depth, either.  But the Bills can get after it.

 

  • Anyone want Antonio Brown back?  Anyone?

 

  • J.C. Jackson, have a day.  Two picks and a blocked punt?  First NFL player to accomplish that in a game since 1989 – when the Jets’ Erik McMillan did it against…wait for it…New England.

 

  • The Patriots defense, as a whole, has had a record-breaking start.  They’ve allowed the fewest defensive points (13) in NFL history over the first four games of a season – since Cleveland in 1946…when the Browns were in the All-American Football Conference.

 

  • The Jonathan Jones hit on Josh Allen?   Please.  The QB was an RB.  The RB is fair game.  Jones didn’t lead with his head.  End of discussion.  This ain’t tiddly winks.

 

  • Not for nuthin’, but home teams last week went 4-11 in the NFL.  Winning on the road does not require style or panache.  Get in, get out intact with a ‘W.’  That’s the name of the game.

 

  • In case you’re wondering, NFL TV ratings are up.  Even the oft-ugly Thursday Night game is up 18% over a year ago, and usually boring Monday Night is up 6%.  Yeah, it’s good to be a football fan.

 

  • Brown and URI renew their gridiron rivalry Saturday in the 104th Battle for the Governors’ Cup.  The Bears are 1-1, Rhody is looking for their first win this season after four losses – and they posted their first-ever shutout over the Bears 48-0 a year ago.  Don’t think overconfidence will be a factor in this one at Brown Stadium.

 

  • Did you see where an ex-Bryant star receiver helped Stony Brook beat URI last week?  Great piece by Will Geoghegan in the Woonsocket Call on Jean Constant, who was Bryant’s first two-time all-American a year ago and is finishing his eligibility this season in New York.

 

  • And ICYMI, Bryant alum Tom Kennedy became the first Bulldog to reach an NFL 53-man roster, when he was activated by the Detroit Lions a week ago.  He replaced…Danny Amendola.

 

  • And how about ex-Bryant pitcher James Karinchak, and former Hendricken and BC pitcher Mike King making their MLB debuts in the final week of the season?  Karinchak made five appearances out of the bullpen for Cleveland, allowing one run on three hits and a walk over 5.1 innings while striking out eight. 

 

  • King pitched two innings for the Yankees against Texas, eight days after a call-up.  He gave up one unearned run against the Rangers a week ago Friday, allowing two hits and striking out one.

 

  • Toasted Coconut Cherrios are a real thing, apparently.  Be still, my heart.  I just got used to Blueberry Cheerios, Pumpkin-frosted Mini-Wheats and bananas in my Raisin Bran.

 

  • Did you hear the story this week about a Miami beer vendor actually charging a fan $724 for two beers at the Dolphins’ game last week?

 

  • There’s a good joke in here somewhere.  Perhaps the joke lies in the obvious fact those beers were worth more than the product being watched, and played, on the field in Miami this season.

 

  • Speaking of price-gouging – the Red Sox told us this week ticket prices are going up for next season, after falling some 35 wins short of last season’s total, with basically the same team.

 

  • Stupid is as stupid does, amiright?  If they want to sell stale hotdogs and flat beer left over from this season to save money, so be it.  But nothing – nothing – justifies even the slightest, inflation-related cost increase in ticket prices.

 

  • Except pure, unadulterated greed.

 

  • Why?  NESN ratings and overall attendance were both down this season.  Games are already too long.  Either Mookie Betts or J. D. Martinez won’t be around.  The team has vowed to cut payroll to get below the luxury tax threshold, which means the blowpen will likely stay just that. The Sox will still have one of baseball’s highest payrolls – they should be competitive with it.

 

  • But who’s betting on a relative injury-free year from either Chris Sale, David Price or Nathan Eovaldi?

 

  • Wait, wut?  No Betts or Martinez?  This guess says Mookie stays here to play out his contract, but J.D. likely opts out for free agency, which he is eligible to do.  But it will hafta be somewhere in the American League, ‘cuz he cain’t play in the field too often.

 

  • And btw, NESN?  Glad the Bruins are back, but your new logo is awful.

 

  • Jack Edwards’ “bad hockey karma” comment after Roman Polak took a header into the wall Thursday night was much ado about nothing.  When considering the context in which the comment came from, and was later explained by Jack, I fail to see anything wrong with it.  Poor choice of words, perhaps.  But Twitter eviscerated him for it.  Unfairly.

 

  • My buddy “Big E” just turned 60.  He was complaining to his 70-year old neighbor that “60 was the worst, because I feel like I gotta go all the time and nothing happens.”  The 70-year old told him, “that’s nothing. 70 is the worst, you eat bran and take laxatives and still nothing comes out.” 

 

  • Overhearing them both, the 70-year-old’s brother, who is 80, said “80 is the worst. I pee every morning at six and move my bowels regularly at 6:30.”  “E” asked him, “so what’s so bad about being 80?”  The old(er) gentleman replied, “I don’t wake up until 7:00.”

 

  • Scott from the UK posted on Facebook this week, following Stephen Gostkowski’s injury and trip to the IR: “I imagine I know your answer to this, but is Stephen Gostkowski a Hall of Famer? He'll get into the Patriots' HOF, but will he end up in Canton?”

 

  • Scott:  I think so, eventually.  But when you consider there are only four placekickers in the Hall (George Blanda – also a QB, Lou Groza, Jan Stenerud, Morten Andersen) it makes for longer odds.  He’s currently 4th in all-time field goal percentage, but only 14th in career FG’s made.  He’s 62 away from creeping into the Top 10, which I think he’ll need to reach.  So, health is a priority for a guy whose team has scored a lot of touchdowns in his career. 

 

  • Interested in having your questions on local Rhode Island sports (and yes, that includes the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics) answered in a somewhat timely fashion? Send ‘em to me! It’s your chance to “think out loud,” so send your questions, comments and local stories to jrooke@weei.com. We’ll share mailbag comments/Facebook posts/Tweets right here! Follow me on Twitter, @JRbroadcaster…and on Facebook, www.facebook.com/john.rooke ...

 

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