Finally, an “amateur” college sports model that might just make sense and allow colleges to get their priorities back, while at the same time allowing for would-be college student athletes to now have the chance to immediately monetize their abilities right out of high school. Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany offered thoughts along this line yesterday:
“Maybe in football and basketball, it would work better if more kids had a chance to go directly into the professional ranks,” Delany said. “If they’re not comfortable and want to monetize, let the minor leagues flourish. Train at IMG, get agents to invest in your body, get agents to invest in your likeness and establish it on your own. But don’t come here and say, ‘We want to be paid $25,000 or $50,000.’ Go to the D-League and get it, go to the NBA and get it, go to the NFL and get it. Don’t ask us what we’ve been doing.
He then went on to say:
“I think we ought to work awful hard with the NFL and the NBA to create an opportunity for those folks. We have it in baseball, we have it in golf, works pretty good, we have it in golf, we have it in hockey. Why don’t we have it in football, basketball? Why is it our job to be minor leagues for professional sports?”
It’s admirable to see Delany step up and attempt to re-prioritize the college sports landscape so that it no longer exists as a blatant minor league for professional sports. Still, it’s also a little confusing, as Delany is only now being vocal, while in years past he has been a benefactor of the amateur (mini-professional) sports model that has been in place. As commissioner of the Big Ten, Delany is paid quite handsomely for the on-field product he oversees, and several of his Big Ten coaches make over a million dollars a year (far, far more than everyone else on campus – including university presidents). This great windfall of money generated didn’t happen by chance, and it didn’t happen as a result of a shoddy product on the field.
“Watch what you ask for as you might just get it”
College sports needs a major overhaul, if for no reason because of the massive shift in integrity by coaches and players because of the incredible money to be gained. When football coaches are making upwards of $5 million a year, you can bet they are going to have a tendency to look the other way when it comes to grades and citizenship. Student athletes are also more inclined to over-focus on their sport when they see that college sports can showcase their talents far better than any class or college degree can.
Jim Delany is saying all the right things, but when he says “What we want to do is do what we’ve been doing for 100 years…” he may not be entirely truthful. 100 years ago athletics had its place at universities, and it was prioritized behind academics. Delany can’t wash his hands and claim innocence when it comes to how this model has tipped on its ear, resulting in a massively changed “amateur” sports system where even assistant coaches are regularly paid far more than professors, department chairs, deans, and even university presidents. Athletic departments — particularly football facilities — are often updated and millions of dollars spent regularly while academic buildings and resources often lag behind. Of course, Delany isn’t responsible for all of this, but as Big Ten commissioner he has certainly enjoyed these changes — making his comment about only wanting to do “what we’ve done for 100 years” questionable at best.
Looking ahead to the future
College sports are about to change, at least a little, and it will be interesting what these changes lead to in the future. If talented high school football and basketball players bypass college and go straight to the minor leagues, how will this impact college athletics? And how will allowing players to immediately monetize on their likeness through apparel and video games impact sports? Will this new revenue stream prove to be more valuable to athletes than being allowed to take free college classes in exchange for making the NCAA and member schools millions? We may learn the answers to these question in the coming years.