Chuck Carlton: NCAA’s stance on athlete compensation has taken a significant step forward — even if it had to be forced

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DALLAS — For what it represented, the NCAA announcement on the thorny issue of athletes capitalizing on endorsements was a significant step forward.

At the same time, significant details need to be worked out on the playing field of name, image and likeness legislation before the 2021-22 school year.

“Progress over perfection is probably what I would say,” Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt said in a phone interview. “It is a big deal. It’s slow to arrive but I do think it’s the appropriate step to take in the ongoing evolution of intercollegiate athletics.

“While there are still a lot of questions to be answered, I think come the anticipated implementation date in 2021, it will be a benefit to our student-athletes. And I’m all for supporting our student-athletes at the maximum level we can given the association’s guidelines.”

The issue was a front burner for a lot of conferences in March, including the Big 12 and SEC.

Then the coronavirus canceled March Madness and the focus shifted.

Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby, who was a member of the NCAA working group on NIL, addressed the subject last month in a media teleconference.

“I think change is coming, and it should,” he said. “It’s time for us to take a fresh look at this. How far we’ll go remains to be seen, but there are an awful lot of people that still have their oars in the water … .”

Some are withholding judgment for now.

“You’re seeing news about talks about principles, and there’s movement, but what we don’t see is fully developed thinking and solutions,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey told ESPN Radio.

Still, the idea that college athletes can be compensated for third-party endorsements represents a quantum leap for the NCAA — even though it was forced into this. Once state legislators from red, blue and purple states realized that dunking on the NCAA was an easy way for public approval, change became inevitable.

And the NCAA probably needs federal help to navigate the umpteen state laws that are in the pipeline.

For all the far-reaching implications, the most publicized public nugget out of an NCAA teleconference filled with heavyweight presences was that the NCAA Football video game won’t be resurrected any time soon.

And at least on the surface, the impact will be limited to a small group of players, primarily in football and men’s basketball. But no one knows the real impact.

Consider Oklahoma as a recent example: What would have been the market values of Heisman winners Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray in football and Buddy Hield and Trae Young in men’s basketball?

Even though the rule changes won’t happen for 2021, what interest would local advertisers have high-profile returning Texas quarterbacks like Sam Ehlinger, Kellen Mond, Shane Buechele and Charlie Brewer for next season?

Ehlinger has been in the forefront of high-profile players on the issue, using Twitter to compare players’ situation under NCAA rules to “a full-time unpaid internship that requires 1-4 years of participation, with a minimum 40-hour work week.” He later backed off the criticism but did praise the passage of a landmark California bill on the subject last October.

The market will obviously vary from campus to campus. A lingering question will be how the NCAA and campuses police big-time boosters who might have an interest in signing high-profile recruits to endorse their business ventures.

Not that it would ever happen.

But the pending NCAA rules could also sort issues like players who have lucrative YouTube or Instagram presences. Yes, that’s a thing.

“Various markets have certain built-in advantages and that will always be the case. Not sure we fully understand what the differences will be in this particular time,” Hocutt said.

Hocutt noted that he could see athletes’ endorsements being in demand in Lubbock, which doesn’t have major pro teams and where Tech dominates the west Texas and eastern New Mexico markets.

Allowing players to received endorsement dollars has long been viewed as an apocalyptic sign by longtime college administrators. Hocutt offered a different view.

“I think amateurism is an outdated statement,” Hocutt said. “I think so much has continued to evolve and change within college athletics in the last 10 to 20 years. It’s a sign of what will be the new model for intercollegiate athletics.”


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