From the RUMOR mill (because no major sources other than blogs are claiming this) the NCAA has completed three days of interviews, including two focused solely on the football team--a virtually unprecedented duration--and word is leaking out that USC will soon be hit with major probation penalties in two sports. The only thing seemingly left in doubt is the severity of the sanctions. A two year TV ban, loss of scholarships and bowl eligibility and vacation of games possibly loom over the Trojans. And that's just the football team.
With the departure of Pete Carroll the likely bellweather for the fortune of the gridiron side, one can't help but think how the game itself will be affected should the NCAA deliver severe penalties to a major program like USC. Although everyone knew this was coming, the realization that the hammer is getting ready to drop has many perplexed about how the CFB landscape might change. Will it be for the better or for the worse, or will we just muck it up as usual? If improper benefits, the crux of both the football and basketball investigations, are found to be of the more flagrant variety, might the NCAA finally have a conversation about paying these players some money to alleviate the sting of being young, broke and impressionable? Or would that just lead to an onslaught of cash being diverted underground to augment the aforementioned stipends?
The prime argument against paying players has always been about the sanctity of their amateur status, but what does that really mean? It's not like they'll forfeit some opportunity to play in the Olympics or bar entrance into the NFL--there is no Olympic football and NBA players already under-achieve in the summer games. Hell, make them file a tax return like everyone else. There's little doubt that the players are employees, especially considering how much revenue they produce for their employers, but that's about it. The universities are the brand. Just because you work for Apple doesn't mean you get a share of the merchandising royalties for every iPod sold, but you should get something--like a paycheck. That's my capitalistic two cents. But since we're talking about amateur status and compensation, let's let the lawyers weigh in:
Flying under the sports radar is a class-action lawsuit from former collegiate basketball players who are suing the NCAA for compensation for using their likeness in video games. The implications of this suit are enormous. While the NCAA, a non-for-profit organization, has been fighting tooth and nail, it must now open it's books to the plaintiff's side, and once opened, this genie may never go back in the bottle. Recently, a 2009 court decision allowed retired NFL players royalties on the use of their images in video games, so the outlook for the NCAA might not be so rosy. The amateur status of athletes--maybe ALL or just those in SOME sports--might be turned on it's ear. Even if the NCAA is able to uphold the chastity of amateur status, that might not bar 'retired' athletes, i.e. those who have exhausted their eligibility, from one day collecting royalties.
Although I think it's still way too early to speculate specifics, I think we might see the NCAA look to throw a bone to the athletes sometime in the near future as a way to not only hold off potential future suits like the one above, but to perhaps mitigate the flood of improper benefits being directed at athletes at many schools. How would you handle it?