The Supreme Court recently ruled against the NCAA, stating that they cannot bar universities from making education-related payments to student-athletes. A separate but related issue is the new name, image, likeness (NIL) bills that 18 states have passed. These bills allow student-athletes to profit from the use of their likeness. These athletes can now hire agents and accept endorsement deals as college students.
As of right now, colleges still can’t pay student-athletes directly to play, but they can pay for education-related expenses. As a former college football player, Tranell Morant understands the intricacies of college athletics and the positive as well as the negative ramifications of paying college athletes. As an entrepreneur and business leader with a reputation for innovation, he knows that you can’t turn back the tide.
Now that endorsement deals are legal in 18 states, with 14 more introducing bills, NIL bills are bound to follow in all states that want to remain competitive in college athletics. Tranell Morant believes ultimately this will be a positive force for many student-athletes. There will be some negative repercussions, and Tranell will share his thoughts about those as well.
The Benefits to Student-Athletes
The biggest upside to allowing student-athletes to take advantage of endorsement deals is that they will now be able to share in the profit they’ve helped create. The NCAA brought in $1.6 billion in revenue in 2017. The big-name universities bring in tens of millions of dollars. Head coaches have salaries in the millions. But the people who actually do the work that brings in all of this money not only don’t get paid for it, they’ve been barred from earning money from their own names and images.
These student-athletes are putting their futures on the line every time they step on the field. Not only are they exposing themselves to the risk of an injury that could cause them health problems for the rest of their lives, but a serious injury in college could spell the end of a professional sports career.
In addition to ending an athlete’s professional career, a serious injury could also end their college career under the current NCAA rules. Sports scholarships are offered one year at a time, so student-athletes who are injured risk losing theirs. Barring student-athletes from earning income from endorsements is nothing short of exploitative. Tranell Morant thinks this is especially true in light of the fact that many college athletes are living below the poverty level and actually owe money to the colleges they play for.
The type of elite-level athletes that will benefit from these types of NIL deals spend an average of 35 hours per week on their sport. That’s not including time spent in classes and studying. Being paid for endorsements will let these students get paid for what is essentially free labor now. Tranell believes hard work and determination should be rewarded, not punished. Fewer than 2% of college athletes go on to professional sports careers. For the other 98%, their value as an athlete peaks in college, and they should be allowed to take advantage of that.
The Challenges for Universities
However, Tranell Morant sees the negative ramifications of allowing NIL deals as well. For one thing, it puts a lot of pressure on young athletes to cultivate a personal brand for social media. Athletes with high follower counts will likely be more in-demand for endorsements than those who don’t. This will put a lot of pressure on universities to get into the brand management business.
Athletic departments, even though they aren’t allowed to directly pay students, will have to deal with the ramifications of these NIL bills on some level. The innovative ones will jump ahead of this, offering guidance and assistance to their athletes in navigating endorsement deals. Tranell thinks this is where some colleges will be able to rise above their competition, at least in the early stages. Colleges that help students garner coveted endorsements will be able to add to their own value. They will be able to recruit high-value athletes without an expensive outlay of cash.
Ultimately, allowing student-athletes to profit from their hard work is only fair. Since Tranell Morant has been both an athlete and an entrepreneur, he stands behind the idea of everyone being able to work hard and make something of themselves. It may make things complicated for college athletic departments at first. But those who see change as an opportunity for innovation instead of resisting it will be able to help their students lay the foundation not just for success in sports but for success in business and life as well.