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Matt’s Musings: The NCAA is full of it, the new change is not enough

Matt Singer | Contributing Writer

On Tuesday, one massively important piece of news dropped that could and probably will change the future of amateur sports in America. It has been a long time coming. People all over the Twitterverse rejoiced. For the first time in what felt like forever, the country was united. A long overdue decision involving the NCAA was finally made. Yes, that’s right. NCAA Football is back!

Well, maybe. You see, if you saw Twitter on Tuesday, you likely would have seen some posts about the official return of EA Sports’ popular NCAA Football video game franchise. That is actually all speculation at this point. Though come on; if EA Sports sees a way to make money, you know they’re going to be… in the game.

What actually happened on Tuesday is slightly more complicated. Top NCAA brass voted to begin a process of changing the rules that currently prevent student-athletes from making money. Once the new rule is implemented, student-athletes will be able to profit off of their names, images and likenesses “in a manner consistent with the collegiate model.”

This move comes over a month after the California state legislature voted to allow athletes at schools in the state do essentially the same thing.

As is always the case with the NCAA, there is a lot to unpack here. First and foremost, yes, it is the right move on the organization’s part. For a long time, college students on athletic scholarships did not have the same rights and privileges as their academic counterparts. Being on a varsity team in college meant you could not make money in any way, and that is difficult as a college student. I will credit the NCAA for at least doing the right thing by getting rid of the ridiculous policy.

Here’s my problem with it though. Anyone who follows college sports knows that the NCAA is the most corrupt, backwards sports organization in America, and that any move they make is only in their self-interest. This rule should have been changed years ago, especially after former University of Connecticut men’s basketball star Shabazz Napier, directly after winning the 2014 national title, spoke about going to bed hungry over the course of the year because he had no money for food. That was over five years ago. You know how long five years is? Five years ago, the UConn men’s basketball team was actually good.

Up until this point, NCAA President Mark Emmert, who looks like the love child of Newt Gingrich and Hermey the Elf from “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” has been steadfast in his assertion that student-athletes should not be able to profit off of themselves. He and the rest of the NCAA have long insisted that once student-athletes are able to make money, the “student” in student-athlete will no longer be relevant.

However, this idea is plainly false. It has been a long, long time since academics came before athletics at the Division I level. During their respective seasons, DI athletes consistently spend around 40 hours per week doing activities related to their sport. Varsity sports are essentially full-time jobs. This makes sense, considering that football and men’s basketball are both multibillion-dollar sports—college football is the second most popular sport in America, tailing only the National Football League. The players have never gotten a slice of the pie and, under the new rule, still won’t (at least not directly—they still won’t get any money from television deals or ticket sales, for example).

As for DII and DIII schools like Wash. U., nothing has really changed. Because athletes here are not on athletic scholarships, there are no rules preventing them from making money on the side. Additionally, DIII athletics do not make anywhere close to the same kind of money as DI sports, so the situations are inherently different.

The NCAA finally succumbed to mounting pressure and relented. Which is good. But college sports are still unfair to the athletes and will remain so until the players benefit fully from their own labor.

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