Connect with us


10 Questions About How Oklahoma State Athletes Will Earn Money in the Future

Spencer Sanders Passing Academy? It could happen.



If you’ve been keeping up over the last few weeks, you’ve no doubt noticed that the NCAA stealthily (?) has been moving toward allowing players to make money off their name, image and likeness (NIL, for short). This is something that’s been a long time coming — and was always going to happen in some form — but also might be a mess when it gets here.

As I’ve read and thought about the floodgates opening on NIL, I’ve formulated 10 questions I have about how it’s going to go and what that means for schools like Oklahoma State and the student-athletes who attend.

Let’s jump in.

1. What’s the cost for athletic departments? At a time during this pandemic where budgets are getting a little tighter than folks would like, this question is worth asking. As far as I understand it, student-athletes will reap all the benefits and schools will front all the financial costs of having to make sure everything operates smoothly.

Once NIL rules go into effect, athletic departments will be under pressure to go all in with opportunities for their athletes or risk watching recruits go elsewhere. The delivery platforms will need to provide transaction management technology that meets NCAA standards for oversight amid concerns about abuses, sham deals and play-for-pay schemes. [AP]

Additionally, student-athletes will have to report all income on this stuff to their athletic departments, which creates a whole other set of headaches. I’m not saying I’m not for it, I’m only saying the unintended cost here might be higher than anyone originally thought.

2. How do you determine fair market value? This might be the murkiest of all the questions. First, check this out from the Associated Press.

Athletes would be allowed to enter into agreements with individuals deemed to be school boosters, the person said. The NCAA would create a mechanism to evaluate potential deals for fair market value and spot possible corruption. An athlete could compromise their eligibility for failing to disclose details of a financial agreement or relationship, the person said. [AP]

That seems like … an absolute nightmare! Determining fair market value in tiny geographic segments across 130 FBS schools (and many more in college basketball) that vary in size, power and sustainability. ???

3. How do you keep wink-wink recruiting deals from happening? See above. What’s to keep a local donut shop owner in Tallahassee (or wherever) from making a wink-wink deal with the No. 1 defensive lineman in the country so that, when he gets to campus in the fall, he enters into an agreement where he gets $20,000 a year to promote donuts. Maybe I’m naive to think stuff like this doesn’t already happen but 1. This could be shady, even within the rules (!) and 2. I think this really hurts a place like OSU, which I do believe does things above board (and if not then their recruiting results sure don’t reflect it!).

4. The rich are going to get richer, right? How about this scenario.

The recommendations also call for allowing athletes to sign autographs for money, sell their memorabilia, and be paid for personal appearances and working as an instructor in their sport. “Trevor Lawrence could have his own passing academy,” the person said, referring to the Clemson quarterback. [AP]

Come here, play for an ACC title, get a great degree, get into four College Football Playoffs, become a top-20 NFL Draft pick … and oh yeah our last five quarterbacks have conducted camps in which they’ve netted $100,000 a summer. Whoo buddy. Great for the kids, not for the equitableness of the sport.

5. Or maybe not? I think this is a stretch, but it’s at least worth considering.

The arguments sound strikingly familiar to what people said about free agency in professional sports in decades past: that it would wreck the competitive balance. In reality, it did the opposite. It produced more parity and less of a system where dynasties dominated and most teams were left without a shred of hope. [The Nation]

I do think you could get a Minnesota or Kentucky or Kansas State that becomes known for being really good at streamlining some of this stuff, which becomes appealing to recruits in the same way facilities or assistant coaches or the food setup does. But because there’s no ceiling on earning potential like there is in some pro sports (i.e. salary caps), I’m not totally sure this example holds up.

6. How will this affect team sponsors? If you’re Nike, there’s value to having your check on Baker Mayfield, Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields. There just is. Maybe close to as much value as having it on everyone else combined from OU, Clemson and Ohio State. If I’m reading this correctly, it seems as if players could be allowed to have sponsorships outside of what their schools have (if the schools allow it, which they will if they want to stay competitive in this particular sphere).

This means we might get Chuba in Nikes on Saturdays but Under Armours every other day of the week. This is something pro sports already deals with (think Steph Curry and the Warriors’ Nike sponsorship), but it could change the calculus for what schools can bring in revenue-wise from some of these companies.

7. Do I even care about social promotion? Stewart Mandel wrote about how monetizing social media is at the heart of all of this.

“Today’s pro athletes, over the last decade, have shifted their income from traditional endorsements like appearances to monetizing Twitter and Facebook, getting paid to stream on Twitch, or hosting their own podcasts,” said Blake Lawrence, the CEO and co-founder of athlete marketing platform Opendorse. “Why that has become the norm is these channels are free to sign up for, they’re widely accessible, and the monetization tools are as simple as clicking a button.” [The Athletic]

I have no doubt this is true, but if everyone is doing it, does that devalue what it’s worth? Contrary to what [checks notes] anyone between the ages of 16-47, not everybody should have a podcast. I wonder if we’re maybe overvaluing what some of this is going to be worth as it relates to Twitter, Instagram and on other platforms. Then again …

8. How does this affect teams? I’ve often wondered how much a pro who’s on the verge of having a lot of money affects locker rooms (think Cade Cunningham next year). That pales in comparison, however, to actually having the money. Disruption will likely be limited, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think the following statement could at least create some friction between 20-year-olds that coaches will have to at some point address. Heck, you could have some players making more than their coaches are.

“I think the economy for influencers is good in terms of how much money athletes can make. It will vary, but I definitely think there are going to be athletes that are making mid-six to seven figures annually with endorsements and different social media activations.” [Athletic]

9. What about when it goes badly? It’s easy to envision a TaylorMade-Matthew Wolff relationship starting his freshman year and going well with continuity into his life as a professional. But not every entity is TaylorMade. Are college kids going to get jammed up by less-reputable businesses looking to piggyback on their college success. I know this is what the athletic department is there for, but it sounds like you’re sort of asking for a massive distraction by inviting the free market into play, especially over the first few years of this.

10. Will this keep players in school? What sounds better if you’re the No. 1 basketball player in the country. Toiling in the G-League for a year for $500K or leveraging your future exposure at Duke or Kansas for a year and getting deals with Bose and Nike? It’s at least a conversation, right?

It’s exposure you just wouldn’t have in the G-League, which is the advantage schools have over stepping-stone leagues like that. Bose and Nike wouldn’t pay you the same they would for your G-League time as they would for your ACC or Big 12 time. I think there’s probably an opportunity there — in non-football sports — for colleges to curb how many players are making the leap to the pros early on.

Ultimately I think all of this is a nice step forward, even if there are loads of questions that need to be worked out. Players getting a bump in money based on their talent, ability and work is always a good thing, even if it shifts some of the economics of the world we’ve been living in.

In 10 years or six years or whatever, all of that will have been worked out, and we’ll be living in a system that’s much fairer to the student-athletes upon whom all of this is being built.

Most Read