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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014

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In Sports Commentary

A new federal court ruling could open the door for college athletes to profit off university jersey sales. (PHOTO: David Bernacchi )

NCAA ruling marks the beginning of change in college sports


A federal court ruling last week shook to the core the belief that amateurism is the key spoke in college athletics is going to have incredible ramifications in the near term for the NCAA, and there are other cases on the horizon that could change the way college athletics are run even more.

But let's focus on the court victory last week, which hinged on the NIL argument. NIL stands for "Name, Image and Likeness" and refers to colleges profiting from using those without any compensation going to the athletes themselves.

The decision was a huge blow for the NCAA which is under assault from all sides.

There are also additional efforts to allow college athletes to unionize and another major lawsuit that would essentially do away with the NCAA and turn college athletics into a free for all zone.

All of this is, of course, in response to the decades of colleges and universities making billions of dollars on the backs of their athletes. Think of wealthy landowners and their serfs. The serfs have risen up and have found an agreeable court waiting for their arguments.

The argument for individual compensation for work performed is intimately tied to the time-tested American principle of what's fair is fair.

We are far from having this whole thing shake out and the winds of change will continue to whip as decision are made, appeals are filed and regulations are discarded or developed.

I am on the side of the players on this one and have been for years. There is, however, one thing I'd like to see come out of this, although I'm not sure it's possible.

I would like to go back to the day when a college athlete went to school and stayed there for four years before heading off to the ranks of the professionals.

I understand that it's hard to unring a bell. And I am no legal expert. But as we begin to find a way to compensate athletes for their efforts on behalf of Big Red or whatever, we might somehow be able to negotiate an employment agreement that would keep these kids in school.

The lure of professional riches is a powerful one, for both sides. If you are player with the right stuff it's easy to understand why you want to get the bling. If you are a pro team in the near constant search for great players and the edge that will propel your team, you don't really care how old the player is.

There is more than a little chance that I am old school on this but I just think things were better and smoother when players had to hang around the campus until there was no more eligibility left. Colleges had a chance to develop players and teams and there was more emphasis on the group than just the individual.

It was also good for college basketball fans. They could form an alliance that went smoothly year after year after year. The way it is now it's like you married Cameron Diaz and she left the week after the vows were exchanged.

Even though it postponed cashing in professionally, I also think it was good for the athletes. They had more of a chance to become men with some maturity who had to shave every day. That's good for personal development, and as we have all seen, professional athletes could well use some personal development skills.

The next few years are going to be full of seismic change in college athletics and I hope I'm not just whistling in the wind when I hope for this simple little change.

Talkbacks

Photodavie | Aug. 12, 2014 at 7:13 a.m. (report)

1st, I don't know why every argument mentions "college sports". It's basketball and football. Don't tell me the UWM volleyball team is having their likeness used to make the university money. 2nd, those 2 sports basically fund every other sport at a university. 3rd, the athletes are indeed being paid in most cases, it's called a scholarship. And if they go to said school for 4 years, that scholarship can be worth over $100,000 at many schools. Finally, to comment on your point of athletes going to school for 4 years, I get where you're going with that, but you are forgetting about a large number of athletes that cannot even get into college in the 1st place. Professional sports are just that, a profession. Once the athlete turns 18, I think they should be allowed to do whatever they want, including turning pro. That is their decision.

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