There is a way to solve the NCAA's pay for play crisis, but it will take some open-mindedness.
Warning: what I am about to propose is a radical idea that has not yet been brought to the surface. At first it will seem a little out there, but give me some time to explain myself.
The solution is simple: let players sign with agents when they get out of high school, and let college players participate in endorsement campaigns for companies. While this may seem like a formula for disaster, it is the only way to give players the money they deserve, and let the NCAA keep all of the money that they are reluctant to give up.
The rules are structured like this: once a player enrolls in classes, he is then eligible to sign with an agent, and that agent may shop his client around to get endorsement money. A player may not sign with an agent beforehand, and if a player is caught associating with an agent before he is allowed to, he may no longer play in any NCAA competition, and the agent caught must forfeit any money that he is due to make with any of his other NCAA clients.
By waiting until the player has enrolled with a school, it ensures that they will not be bought by a school, via their agent. By allowing players to sign with agents, players will be able to make money while they are in school, whether it be from endorsements or straight money from the agent. It will also make the amount of money a player makes proportionate to their star power, which will solve the dilemma of having to pay all of the players the same amount of salary. This will also take the burden off of smaller schools who have trouble making money and can't afford to pay all of their athletes.
By letting players have agents schools will also get to relieve some of the burden of having to watch over all of their players 24/7. The agent will have to student's best interest in mind because if the student does all of the right things, he will make more money in the future. Watching over student athletes and making sure that they do not break any rules is a large part of the athletic budget for big schools, and small schools alike.
While having players have extra eyes on them will help both small and big schools some people will argue is that by having a player go to a big school with more of a television audience they will have a better chance of making more money, giving big schools a recruiting advantage. This is not a problem because players already try and get themselves to those big schools in hopes of being seen by NFL scouts. It can also help smaller schools recruit because if a player has a chance to play right away at a smaller school, they will get more of a chance to get their name in the public light.
It works for the players, and it works for the schools, but how will it work for the agents? People may first assume that players would be cut outrageous checks from their agents right when they sign. While this may be the case in some rare situations, it will not be true across the board. Agents have never had to compete for players before without them making money for playing. Because the players will only be making money from ads and endorsements, they will be a riskier investment for the agents.
Furthermore, there is no guarantee that they players will stay with the agent all the way through college, and into their professional careers. This will make the agents very cautious of the amount of money they give the players for signing, and will help the whole agent signing process regulate itself.
While it may seem counter intuitive letting players sign with agents and make money from other avenues then their schools, this proposal will solve the NCAA's crisis. It will allow the players to make money, and preserve the fair recruiting balance that supposedly exists today.
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