Allowing student-athletes to sell their autographs a bad idea
If the idiom “sign on the dotted line” has been on your mind the past few days, it’s probably due to word association.
Once again the college football world is dealing with the autograph issue, with opinions ranging from “It’s ridiculous that college athletes can’t get any money from signing their own names,” to “These guys are idiots for not waiting a few more months until their careers are over.”
Specifically, Florida State is investigating Jameis Winston’s connection to James Spence Authentication, the company that was linked to suspended Georgia running back Todd Gurley. It has reportedly certified 500-plus autographs from Gurley and more than 2,000 from Winston, and we’re all waiting for the proof that they got paid to do so.
“Kids sign things all the time,” Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher told ESPN.
In sequential order? Right coach. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. The sand volleyball team’s players did the same thing out of the goodness of their hearts (and yes, the Seminoles do have a team). Anyone who believes that signing his name 2,000 times isn’t a big deal, try doing it. See how long it takes to do, and for his or her hand to start cramping up.
Having something like that happen with a star player is one of those things that keep coaches up at night, even though there’s not a lot they can do about it other than say “Don’t” over and over again. But boys will be boys, and the moment the coaches turn their backs …
“It’s always a concern of ours any time that there’s an issue in college football that’s very, very difficult to control externally,” Coach Nick Saban said on the subject last week. “We are very vigilant with our process of how we counsel players, teach players. Our compliance people try to do the best possible job that we can so that we don’t have those issues.
“There’s a lot of folks out there who are trying to do these types of things for their own personal benefit and the player is the one who’s going to suffer the consequences if he doesn’t make a good choice and decision.”
For Winston and Gurley, both can already kiss their chances at the Heisman Trophy goodbye, although obviously Winston has a number of other issues to deal with that’s causing his NFL Draft stock to decline. Should he trip over any of them during the next few weeks then you can pretty much write off the Seminoles, the Atlantic Coast Conference’s only legitimate contender for the inaugural playoff.
On face value, yes, anyone should be able to sell his or her autograph to anyone who wants to buy it. Nevertheless, allowing college athletes to do so would open the floodgates, allowing in the kind of people the NCAA has been trying so hard to keep off its campuses:
Judge Claudia Wilken recently ruled in the Ed O’Bannon case that the NCAA must allow schools to give athletes some of the money they bring in by licensing an athlete’s name, image and likeness (NIL) to companies.
However, lifting the ban on getting paid for autographs could result in copious lawsuits regarding Title IX, the legislation designed to level the playing field and give women the same opportunities in athletics as men.
It says: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
Additionally, with the power-five conferences twisting the NCAA’s arms to have more autonomy, it looks like student-athletes in all sports could soon get a significant stipend to help with cost-of-living expenses.
“I will give you (fill in the blank) for your autograph if you attend (fill in the blank) school.”
That would end college athletics as we know them today because recruiting would become nothing more than a bidding war.
There would be more runners and “unofficial” workers of agents doing everything they could to line up players, and there would be no real way to stop them.
Remember Saban’s controversial statement in 2010 comparing rogue agents to pimps who entrap athletes without repercussions? With this, the comparison might be more like The Walking Dead.
What no one is talking about is that the players previously mentioned didn’t need the money. Did Johnny Manziel last year when he was flying around the country to attend major sporting events? Of course not.
Scholarships provide a lot, including tuition, food, equipment and numerous things that most people don’t think about.
“Everybody knows what a scholarship is worth — that’s pretty easy to figure out — but to do on a per-player basis, what we invest in the player to try to help them be successful,” Saban said in the spring. “We spent like $600,000 last year on personal development programs, all things that directly affect the player having a chance to be successful. I can’t even tell you what our academic support budget is, trying to invest in a player and what is the value of him getting an education and graduating from school here? Not just the value of the scholarship. What’s the value of him getting an education?
“How much do we actually reinvest in quality of support staff to help develop players that may have a chance to go on and play at the next level, have great college careers, have a chance to win a championship. Pretty significant budget around here, that if you look at it, it really is invested back in the players.”
Under the current setup it’s not like student-athletes can’t sign autographs for money for the rest of their lives, just the years they’re on active rosters, and it’s about the only thing they give up when inking their scholarship papers. That’s not asking for much, and in turn they get the opportunity to earn a degree and live fuller lives.
But somewhere the line has to be drawn.
These football players knew the rules and they knew the penalties. It’s just plain sad when a little responsibility is too much to ask.