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They Can Save NCAA From NFL, NBA, NILs And Just About Everything Else


Everything was true regarding what the two most powerful men associated with University of Notre Dame athletics wrote this week in an op-ed piece for the New York Times
about the state of college athletics.

To paraphrase: Despite such things as CBS and Turner paying around $1 billion per year through 2032 for the men’s basketball tournament, doom and gloom are on the way for the NCAA, suggested Notre Dame president John I. Jenkins and Jack Swarbrick, the athletics director of the Fighting Irish.

Among the evils cited by Jenkins and Swarbrick, it’s the way college athletes are getting paid through name, image and likeness (NIL) deals.

Well, some are, but the overwhelming majority of them aren’t.

While quarterback Bryce Young finished his Alabama career in January earning an estimated $3.5 million in NIL deals, NIL platform INFLCR puts the median transaction at $53.

Which means if you think it was striking in the past to see the halves and the have nots in college football and basketball, just wait.

We’re heading for the halves and higher levels beyond the halves.

“People were paying under the table for as long as I’ve been around,” Swarbrick told Sports Illustrated after his New York Times piece. “Now it’s the same payment, but they’re calling it NIL. We’re not going to stop it. It’s not going to all go away. But we’ve got to get out of this position where the vast majority of the transactions occurring are not what they are being characterized as.”

This imbalance among NCAA teams in football and basketball is threatening to become significantly worse since the National Labor Relations Board of Los Angeles Region is among those wanting college athletes classified as employees of their institutions.

And how does all of this affect Title IX, which spurred the rise of women sports in the NCAA during the early 1970s? According to that legislation, women sports should mirror men sports in benefits. That presumably would include the female equivalent of Bryce Young for NILs, which there was none.

No worries, Jenkins and Swarbrick added.

Yes, college athletics, as we’ve known them for generations, are on the verge of dropping off a cliff — with a shove from the increasingly scary monster called those NIL deals. But Jenkins and Swarbrick proposed ways in their New York Times piece to avert disaster.

In sum: The combination of the NCAA, Congress and professional sports leagues should follow their suggestions.

All of them.

They’re simple, and they’re doable.

“We call on universities to reaffirm that student-athletes are students first and to ensure that their athletic programs serve the schools’ broader educational mission, not the other way around,” wrote Jenkins and Swarbrick without the hint of hypocrisy since they mentioned “99% of student-athletes who stay for at least four years get a diploma” at Notre Dame.

Now get this: Like most NCAA schools, the Notre Dame football team provides the bulk of the income for the rest of the athletics department, especially since it has finished with double-digit win seasons in six of the previous eight years, including two trips to the College Football Playoff.

As a result, Notre Dame football has generated more than a little income as a rare independent in the NCAA.

Prior to the pandemic, Forbes placed Notre Dame eighth among college football programs with an average revenue of $120 million over the three years leading into the 2019 season.

The Irish receive around $26 million per year from television deals with NBC and their partnership with the ACC, and that figure is expected to surpass $70 million annually when they sign their new media rights contract after that NBC deals ends following the 2024 season.

So, Jenkins and Swarbrick aren’t whining as if they’re running an athletics program from the Sun Belt or some other mid-major conference that seemingly produce less revenue in a decade than the Irish make at Notre Dame Stadium after an average kickoff. They want fairness for all teams, all sports and all genders, adding, “We call on the NCAA and athletic conferences to set policies that support that goal, and we urge Congress to protect the NCAA’s ability to regulate the competition for new players to ensure it remains fair and above board.”

That makes sense.

So does this from Jenkins and Swarbrick . . .

— They want the NCAA and individual schools to regulate NIL transactions as opposed to the current Wild Wild West system that is essentially free agency when combined with the transfer portal.

— They want the NCAA to limit the travel schedule of teams to keep athletes from missing so many classes.

— They want a national medical trust to take care of injured college athletes.

— They want the NCAA to make schools honor the scholarship of athletes wishing to complete their degree by returning to campus someday.

— They want the NBA to get rid of the one-and-done rule that allows college players to bolt for the pros after one season.

— They want Congress “to resolve conflicting state regulations, clarify that our athletes are students, not employees, and give the NCAA the ability to enact and enforce rules for fair recruiting and compensation.”

They want what the headline said on their New York Times op-ed piece: College Sports Are a Treasure. Don’t Turn Them Into the Minor Leagues.

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