So you want to be paid? Think again

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Many video game fans were ecstatic when the NCAA made the ruling, anticipating NCAA Football and Basketball could be brought back.

The NCAA has paved the way for student-athletes to make money. It’s a historic decision that no one saw some coming.

So who’s getting paid?

While we’re at it, who at Oklahoma State’s getting paid? A lot of this will be figured out over the next few years, but the gates have been opened.

The debate has raged on for a long time. Should student-athletes be paid or not? On one side, some think student-athletes have been over-worked while the NCAA builds a hefty bank account. And others say paying those athletes would cause corruption and potentially ruin college sports. It was a never-ending discussion that engulfed America in emotions.

Then it all became moot when the NCAA made a shocking choice to allow student-athletes to benefit off their name, image and likeness. It shocked the country. The fight was over. The student-athletes who had been held back for so long were finally able to get the money many people thought they deserved.

The NCAA’s ruling that allows student-athletes to benefit off their likeness opens the path for all three divisions to create rules to address the matter. It’s not the full thing yet, but it’s a step in the right direction. A step toward equal compensation for student-athletes.

But is it actually equal? How much are these student-athletes going to benefit from the ruling?

OSU basketball coach Mike Boynton guesses only a few will get rich.

“I can stand here as someone who was a former student-athlete and tell you there’s not a single person in Columbia, South Carolina, that would have paid me to do anything,” Boynton said.

There are more than 460,000 student-athletes in the NCAA. How many are going to really benefit?

Many experts say it’ll be the 1% of the 1%.

That’s 46 people.

That’s obviously not the exact number, but there are not many athletes who will benefit from the rule change.

Every student-athlete puts in work, but that doesn’t mean businesses are going to be willing to pay massive amounts of money to a majority of them.

Most student-athletes wouldn’t see an influx of money with this ruling as their value comes from the school they play for.

“If you really look at it, I don’t know how many businesses out there are clamoring to get that one player,” OSU professor Dr. Bryan Finch said. “They’re clamoring to get the logo from the school. They want to be UCLA basketball sponsor or USC football sponsor. They want Stanford. That’s where the brand power is. Not the individual player yet.”

That doesn’t hold true for everyone, of course. Someone such as Zion Williamson, who was a superstar at Duke last season, would have been big whether he went to Duke or San Jose State.

Those high-caliber athletes have clearly established their own value, and they stand to be compensated as such.

OSU athletes who may receive compensation are running back Chuba Hubbard, a Heisman candidate, or wide receiver Tylan Wallace, who was a potential first-round pick before he tore his ACL.

OSU women basketball’s star forward Vivian Gray could hold some intrigue as one of the best players in the nation. Former OSU players such as Dez Bryant, Marcus Smart and Brandon Weeden could have also reaped the benefits of this bill.

But even for them, it’s fair to question how much the compensation would be.

Paying players brings up other questions.

Where does this leave college athletics? Student-athletes benefiting off their likeness may seem like the logical move, but is this the right course of action?

It could create a situation that begins to tilt the scales of equality.

Regulation is going to be tough. Corruption could be a problem.

Washington State football coach Mike Leach said he has no problem with players earning more money, but he believes this ruling could ruin college football.

“The school needs a running back, so they’re recruiting a running back, and all of a sudden some alum from that school calls up the running back and says, ‘listen, if you let me use your likeness on a sign outside of my office or on my brochures or on my ad, I’ll pay you $50,000,’” Leach said. “Well, are we comfortable with that? Because all that is is buying players.”

It could cause a discord that takes away from the culture that is college sports. There isn’t a price that can be put on the passion athletes put into the game. Most aren’t playing for a paycheck, but rather for the love of the game.

FS1 basketball analyst and former OSU basketball player Doug Gottlieb said that was the best part of it all.

“I’ve played sports for a paycheck,” Gottlieb said. “And it’s cool, it’s fine, I’ve won a championship in Russia and gotten a $50,000 cash bonus. It was awesome, it was cool. But you know what, it wasn’t really an emotional experience. There wasn’t any connection to it. It wasn’t the connection to playing in college with guys you live around and guys you train with and at that time in your life, that’s what you need.”

OSU football coach Mike Gundy has similar concerns as Leach.

“The one thing I’m not sure of right is what are the parameters?” Gundy said. “Are there limits? Can Nike help Oregon? Can Under Armour help Maryland?”

College sports are great because of that. The upsets, the celebrations, the madness, it all stems from the purity of the game.

If that’s taken away, what happens?

“If money begins to get involved in it, what direction is this going to go?’ Gundy said. “It scares me. So whoever finds the best name and likeness deal, is that where all the best players go? That’s not good for college football.”

The name, image and likeness approach could potentially to tear away at the fabric of what makes college sports special.

It’s a delicate balance between what’s right and what people want.

The other side of the argument is that the few student-athletes who deserve to get paid, make college sports what it is, and they deserve to be compensated.

It’s a fair argument, but it’s fair to question if the little money they would make is enough to offset the potential issues.

In a large football program such as OSU’s, how many local Stillwater businesses would hand out big deals to these players?

Even with bigger businesses, they probably don’t need to hand out big endorsement deals when they already have customers rolling in.

There are few collegiate athletes who would actually be given big-money deals.

The money is not as people think it is. How many Zion Williamsons are in college sports?

Then another question arises: are boosters willing to shell out large sums of money going to pay athletes such Tylan Wallace or Chubba Hubbard to stay at OSU?

The money could instead be used on the front end to entice 5-star prospects. Boosters have little incentive to pay established stars anything.

Is that going to spark jealousy when the recruits arrive? Will it cause rifts in the locker room? Is it all really worth it?

Many video game fans were ecstatic when the NCAA made the ruling, anticipating NCAA Football and Basketball could be brought back.

That isn’t as practical as one may think.

If EA Sports wants to make another NCAA game, they would have to pay each and every player the same for their image and likeness.

In the O’Bannon v. NCAA case, players sued for their “right of publicity” in the NCAA video games. The student-athletes wanted compensation for usage of their name, image and likeness in those games.

The case ended with the NCAA paying a $60 million settlement to former collegiate athletes. They wouldn’t want to deal with that again.

During the 2017-2018 season, there were 18,816 players in college basketball across all three divisions.

If each player were to receive even $100, EA Sports would have to shell out $1.9 million dollars.

Would players be OK with only $100?

What if the players decide to start a union and hire a top-notch agent to negotiate with EA Sports? That agent isn’t going to take the deal for just $100. Maybe he or she gets it up to $1,000.That would be $18.8 million.

But what if they aim higher? Does $18 million become $40 million? Or $80 million?

How much is EA Sports willing to pay before it’s no longer worth the effort.

It’s a tricky situation. And the NCAA didn’t make things easier.

The NCAA’s ruling laid the framework for this all to happen, but it stated the rules the divisions would make should be created should be “in a manner consistent with the collegiate model.”

What does that entail?

It’s open to interpretation.

One can only speculate it has to do with maintaining regulation to keep amateurism present in collegiate sports.

That only adds to the argument that compensation for student-athletes will be limited. The divisions need to devise a way to regulate compensation, further devaluing the money student-athletes could receive.

Where does the NCAA set the line between equality, amateurism and fairness? It’s a debate that roars on.

But remember, it’s not so black and white.

“I benefited in every way possible from being a student-athlete,” Boynton said. “I got a degree, I played college basketball for four years, had a great experience. It wasn’t always easy or fun; it was hard work, but I’m here today because of that experience. And there are a lot more guys like me than there are Zion Williamsons.”

Sports.ed@ocolly.com