Would Player Endorsements Help or Hurt College Football?
South Carolina Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier thinks college athletes should be paid.
Scattered across various corners of the interwebs are others who would argue against such a thing taking place.
What about a happy place somewhere in the middle for the time being?
Players being paid by organizations outside of their specific institution of higher learning to provide endorsements of a specific product.
Imagine the revenue Johnny Manziel could have produced for himself in the offseason with an opportunity to market himself.
There are arguments going both ways, for and against, and five of each are included here.
Con: Imbalance in Funding
Here's a major concern that, while somewhat of a reach given the current environment, would be an issue if players were allowed to sign endorsement deals:
Some programs have wealthier supporters than others, and if there were no cap on the amount of endorsements that could be offered, programs such as Oregon with Phil Knight and Oklahoma State with T. Boone Pickens would have a major advantage.
Knight and his funds from Nike could offer ridiculous amounts to athletes, especially if they were to cut back to only 15 unique uniform designs per season.
Teams without such wealthy supporters to provide huge endorsement deals would be at a disadvantage.
Pro: Local Boosts
This is a secondary benefit to allowing players to receive endorsements, but still worth considering.
Local vendors, including small businesses and locally owned stores would be able to leverage this opportunity into some positive funding for their organizations.
Businesses using Marcus Mariota for marketing in Eugene, Ore., would see the benefits of having such a celebrity shilling for their product.
And any boost to the economy, particularly on a local level, in these difficult economic times is a positive.
Plus, you have to believe that if players had more money to spend, some of it would be spent in their college towns.
Con: Who Gets What?
Would such a thing as player endorsements lead to some issues with team chemistry?
The starting tight end at Florida is just not as likely to be worth as much as a stud running back or defensive end.
There would need to be some regulation both at the NCAA level, possibly at the conference level and even within the program to cap off amounts allowed to be paid, but even then, if one player is more popular within the fanbase than another, he is going to be worth more.
Coming up with a simple solution to this issue would be about as easy as solving Will Muschamp's anger issues.
Pro: Redefine Cheating
All of the uncertainty, allegations and hype surrounding Cam Newton, Reggie Bush and a list of other players accused of various improprieties if the rules defining "cheating" were tweaked a bit.
If player endorsements were allowed, players would have the opportunity to gain a significant income that could help stem the temptation to succumb to financial opportunities outside the allowed NCAA parameters.
What Newton, for example, did at Auburn was incredible and should be celebrated as a major accomplishment.
It's a shame that the controversy surrounding him will always be attached to his name, especially when having the rules change just a bit to allow player endorsements and players to be paid would change the public perception.
Redefining what is termed as cheating would be a positive step for the sport.
Con: Cheating Will Continue
No matter what rules are put into place and which regulations the NCAA keeps or doesn't keep, somebody is going to bend those rules as far as possible and eventually break them.
Whether it's open season on every player, or just star players, there is going to be a way around the rules and programs that continue to seek a competitive advantage through whatever means possible.
Sure, a few modifications to the rules would help cut down on the seeming epidemic of "improper benefits" and "inappropriate conduct" that we have seen over the past several years.
However, regardless of how the rules look in the future, there will be someone, somewhere, who will find a way around them.
That doesn't mean the NCAA shouldn't try to improve on the product, but don't pretend that programs paying players, or just allowing product endorsements, will do away with folks taking advantage of any loophole they can find.
Pro: Spread the Wealth
The Wall-Street Journal developed a chart estimating the worth of each major college football program, Notre Dame and BYU.
Checking in atop the list was Texas, with a football program worth a whopping $761.7 million.
And even Temple, who checks in last on this list was estimated at $46.9 million.
That's a ton of dough, of which the players see a very small part, and only in the form of scholarships.
Allowing players to sign endorsement deals gives them a way to earn and learn how to manage money much earlier than they would if waiting until they reach the NFL.
Con: They Are Already Getting Payed
Let's not pretend these players are not benefiting by taking the field for their particular universities.
The cost of the education these young men are supposed to be receiving is ridiculous.
For instance, a year at Duke costs around $55,000.
Rutgers, a state university, checks in around $23,000.
It's disingenuous to just pooh-pooh the amount of benefits the players are already being provided.
They are very generous, and that's not including any other legal or illegal benefits the players might receive from the university and boosters.
If players are going to be paid to play football, do they still get a scholarship, or do they have to pay their way like the kid who, instead, is working at a Starbucks for $10.00 an hour?
Pro: They Are Already Getting Payed
Besides the scholarships and educations that these "student-athletes" are already receiving, there are extra legal benefits floating around all over the place.
Miami, Ohio State, USC and Auburn are a short list of programs that have been accused, and/or confessed to some kind of behavior contrary to the rules of the NCAA, all having something to do with lack of funds for players or recruiting violations.
If schools are allowed to pay players, these "under-the-table" benefits will go away, as boosters will be able to donate to the football programs for recruiting, instead of used in an "illegal" manner.
The truth is that if you have a college football program, there is probably something underhanded going on, and allowing payment to players would help do away with much of this.
Con: Competitve Balance
With a shift toward an imbalance in funding due to wealthier supporters at certain schools, there would also be a shift toward a competitive imbalance.
Better players would naturally gravitate toward schools with better-paying endorsements.
This would, I'm sure, be regulated in some way, and probably capped off in a way similar to some of our professional leagues, but there is no doubt that this would still be an issue.
That said, it may not be as much of an issue as some think.
Teams such as BYU and Wisconsin do not pull in the high-level recruits that other programs—specifically in the SEC—can recruit.
In the Rivals recruiting rankings, that becomes obvious, as every SEC team, including Kentucky and Vanderbilt, checks into the rankings at 41 or higher.
Wisconsin, who has won the Big Ten title for three consecutive seasons, checks in at 57.
There is already an imbalance of sorts when it comes to recruiting, and it has been evidenced by the SEC's success on the field.
This will continue whether endorsements are allowed or not.
Pro: End This Debate
One of the biggest positives to allowing endorsements is that it would allow us to finally see an end in sight to the endless to-pay-or-not-to-pay debate.
While signing an endorsement is not the same as being paid by a university, seeing players get paid for their playing time would be a step that will help silence those claiming players are being taken advantage of.
If a Notre Dame player is receiving an endorsement from a car dealership in South Bend, the argument that he is receiving nothing for his services is moot.
It's a step toward seeing players paid by the university and a definite check to the arguments surrounding the issue.