How the NCAA Supreme Court Decision has Transformed College Sports into Pay to Play

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After over 70 years, the Supreme Court rules unanimous decision on NCAA payments, allowing college athletes to monetize their name, image and likeness (NIL)

Meet the Cavinder twins, Hannah and Haley, a double threat on social media with 4 million followers as they dazzle and delight their fans like the Harlem Globetrotters but with gorgeous blonde locks and impossibly adorable matching outfits. They’re also college basketball stars at Fresno State and thanks to a Supreme Court ruling in June 2021 that pushed back on long-debated antitrust laws, they’re now banking some serious coin.

With pressure from new state laws and the Supreme Court, the NCAA overlords were forced to reverse the iron-clad rules on college sports and as of July 1st, 2021, eight states – and more to come – now allow college athletes to make money from their name, image, and likeness (NIL). After decades of heavily mandated restrictions, the new rule reversal is an epic game-changer for not just the Cavinder twins but college athletes all over the country.

The College Sports Gold Rush

Photo courtesy Pixabay

For the first time in the history of college athletics, it is now ready, set, go for the Gold Rush of student athletes. While the Cavinder twins were in Times Square celebrating their first signed deal in collegiate NIL history for Boost Mobile, other star athletes in the South were also cashing in on the Gold Rush: LSU kicker Cade York in a Velveeta commercial, Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei for Dr. Pepper, and JT Daniels, the quarterback for Georgia, as brand ambassador for Rhoback athletic wear and Zaxby’s. Cha-ching!

But like the start of any Gold Rush, there’s also chaos and confusion as the rules get ironed out. While the lawyers, lawmakers, and top officials are stuck in a perpetual huddle, coordinating their offense and defense, and looking for their hemorrhoid cream, the Cavinder twins are making ridiculous amounts of cash with product placement, affiliate marketing, as much money as they can before the NCAA finalizes the rules and they age out of college basketball. Because of the income disparities in pro sports for men versus women, the clock is ticking even faster for female athletes.

Flag on the Play

Photo courtesy Pixabay

The NIL debate has been dribbled back and forth in the court system for over a decade and in some ways, it’s the oldest story in the playbook – the war between generations, a middle finger to the patriarchy, and in this instance, the battle has come full circle as the twins are set to make more money than the president of Fresno State University. The top officials of higher education administration, the ones chilling on the yachts with the helipads, are getting a major shakeup. And like any king getting pushed off the throne, there’s going to be pushback.

Now that the Supreme court rules unanimous decision on NCAA athlete payment, some argue that opening the gates to the college sports Gold Rush will lead to a confusing rabbit hole marked by an interesting variety of red flags, especially for the most popular programs like NCAA basketball and NCAA football. State legislators are now looking to Congress to clarify the rules for the entire country instead of a complex mashup of different state laws that are constantly in flux. There are some rules set in place like the ban on alcohol endorsements, but it’s open season for restaurants, car dealerships, athletic wear, power bars, and more to come.

Mo Money Mo Problems

But with an array of different policies that differ from state to state, the potential is rife for competitive advantages among universities. Like the Notorious B.I.G. prophesized on the hit 90s song, it presents a conundrum of ‘Mo Money Mo Problems.’ Sports analyst Terence Moore from Forbes is concerned that money will corrupt the unique team spirit of college sports, a sentiment echoed by university presidents and athletic directors across the U.S. As he points out, “… winning will become secondary…especially for those associated with major college football and basketball…”

Photo courtesy Pexels

According to a New York Times report, only a small number of top athletes will earn obscene amounts of money. The vast majority will earn very little if any at all. Instead of huddling with their teammates – ones that most likely won’t be signing major corporate deals – the star athletes will be huddling with their accountants, managers, and PR reps. It remains to be seen, but team spirit could get seriously sacked in this scenario.

#%!& Taxes

Another sticky situation is money management. With star athletes making significant amounts of cash, they’ll need to pay taxes, a bewildering prospect for the average 18 to 20-year-old college student. Of course, a new NIL department at college campuses would be the reasonable solution, but with an alarming amount of layoffs and budget cuts in higher education administration, especially in 2020 because of you-know-what, a dedicated NIL department doesn’t look likely for many colleges.

With the new NCAA Supreme Court decision, there’s no turning back – college sports will be indefinitely changed, for good or ill. In the words of 90s rap legend Biggie Smalls, here’s the big question that looms over the ivy halls of campuses all over the country:

Photo courtesy Pexels

Now what you gon’ to do with a crew that got money much longer than yours and a team much stronger than yours?

Further Reading:

Everything you need to know about the NCAA and NIL debate (espn.com)

NCAA Had No Choice, But NIL Rule Will Damage College Football And Basketball (forbes.com)

Supreme Court rules against NCAA in antitrust case in unanimous vote (usatoday.com)

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