After a long (and somehow controversial battle), the NCAA unanimously voted to allow college athletes to start making a profit off of their name, image and likeness. The move came after California passed legislation, the Fair Pay to Play Act, allowing college athletes to hire agents and accept/make money from endorsements. This move defied the original and already existing NCAA rules. The state law essentially banned schools from kicking athletes off of their teams if they receive payment. However, there was pressure to pass such a ruling long before the California legislation was put into place. Gavin Newsom, Governor of California, tweeted that “colleges reap billions from student athletes but block them from earning a single dollar. That’s a bankrupt model”. Well, Newsom was right. So what took so long to finally approve this rule? We asked Tim Bulman, former defensive end for the Houston Texans and Arizona Cardinals as well as Pico’s very own Quinton Porter, who had an 8 year professional football career in both the NFL and CFL, to share their thoughts on the new rule, how it could have changed their college careers and how college athletes today can utilize social media to start building their own brand.
Colleges reap billions from student athletes but block them from earning a single dollar. That’s a bankrupt model.— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) September 30, 2019
I just signed the Fair Play to Pay Act with @KingJames -- making CA the first state to allow student athletes to profit off their name, image, and likeness. pic.twitter.com/aWE9OL9r1v
WHAT’S RIGHT & WHAT’S FAIR
Porter, now VP of North America for Pico, was able to share his personal experience of not being able to cash in on his image when his image was used in 2 large placements on Wilson’s NCAA football packaging, which was sold in every retail chain in the US and Canada for over 5 years, “I never received any compensation despite fighting for it.”
“I think the ruling is great and long overdue, so long as it also supports athletes who aren’t the few who will be making millions professionally anyway. So many young NCAA athletes give everything they have to their teams, which brings enormous revenue to the school, and only have a degree to show for it. Schools have enjoyed the fruits of essentially free labor for too long and the athletes, who ARE the product, deserve a fair share. Especially since the vast majority won’t earn a dime from the sport after they graduate.” Porter went on to say.
Bulman had similar sentiments to share, “allowing college athletes the ability and right to capitalize on their image and likeness is a big step forward for the NCAA in affording the players with the same opportunities that other non-athlete college students across the country have always had. The ability to be entrepreneurial and benefit from a unique skill set and earned situation will bring athletes to some level of parity with non-athlete students that have the ability to do this on a daily basis.” Bulman raises an interesting point on the differences college athletes and their students face with the ability, options and freedom to create side-hustles and even work summer or “not-in-season” jobs.
With all of the revenue and fandom college athletes bring to their colleges and universities, the question of why this took so long arises. When you look at the career of Zion Williamson, during his time with Duke University, you could feel the hype and excitement around his name. Especially when March Madness came around. For example, during Williamson’s college career, ticket prices soared. When Duke played against Virginia, the average ticket price sky-rocketed to $234 in comparison to $45 for all other previous games without Williamson. For their game against Louisville, the average price of tickets rose to $103 in comparison to $59 for all other games.
BUILDING A BRAND VIA SOCIAL MEDIA
Today, college athletes have an interesting and exciting opportunity to finally build their own brand using social media platforms. “College athletes have fans and a fan is a very powerful thing. Social provides these athletes a way for fans to follow them as personalities and it should create partnership opportunities with brands in ways it has never been able to do before this vote,” Porter shares on how college athletes can utilize these platforms to their advancement. If Instagram influencers and models can make close to seven figures from their sponsorships and collabs, an “admired and inspiring college athlete should be able to earn something for pouring their heart out in a brand’s apparel or equipment”.
Social media also has the ability to provide a voice for collegiate athletes where they typically and previously didn’t have one. It can create a direct line of communication between athlete and fan, and show to fans a different viewpoint of their favorite player. Perhaps it could even increase empathy among fans as they become more exposed to this player and what their life is like outside of the court, stadium, etc. One thing for certain is the power it has to create new levels of fan engagement, both in and out of the stadium.
At the end of the day, college athletes deserve more and deserve better for all they do for the schools that they play for. Not only do these players bring packed stadiums and ticket/merch sales, they help create communities and feelings of togetherness on the actual campus’ themselves. They bring hype and school pride for alumni and current students. They create exciting in-stadium experiences and memorable moments for fans across all stages of lives.