What do Tony Stewart and Ed O'Bannon have in common?

  • I posted the story on Stewart here this morning because I feel that it is a groundbreaking story. As the day wore on I thought about why. Why is this important? This is beyond NASCAR, and maybe beyond the grief and questions about intent predicating guilt or innocence. I believe it reaffirms something about the nature of sport, and something that we’ve always known.

    We love sports because they are their own separate contexts. And for that reason, actions that would clearly be punishable in a court of law may be permissable in the court of professional car racing. In a way, this in an affirmation that our sports are liberated from the world that we escape when we sit down to watch them on TV.

    In contrast, the ruling of the Ed O’Bannon case can be seen as an acknowledgement of the erosion of the separate context that is the sport of college basketball.

    Here is the quote from O’Bannon that strikes home the central point:

    “These rules have been in place for a hundred years and there has been no change. Times have changed, the economy has changed, the players themselves have changed, the salaries of the coaches have changed. Everything has changed except for how a player is compensated. And whether [they’re paid] while they’re in school, or whether it’s once their eligibility is up, that part of the game has to change.”

    The money has made college basketball a professional business for quite some time, but the NCAA, while appearing to be a champion for the purity of the game, was providing its collegiate athletes sanctuary from the almighty dollar by taking all the profits for themselves.

    In the real world where basketball is entertainment that drives big profits, this would clearly be an inequity and O’Bannon and collegiate athletes should be compensated for the use of their likeness. But in the separate context that is the sport of college basketball, deferring compensation for their performance on the court may have in some way let the athletes continue to love the game for the sake of a game. That changes in the post-O’Bannon era. We are left to debate as to what extent.

  • Banned

    @approxinfinity you may have out done yourself with this one. This is like a two for one topic. I’m going to try and tackle that latter, as it has been swirling in the deep dark recesses of me brain for a few days.

    How do I even begin? My first thought was no way should players be compensated. They get a fee education, a place to stay, a personal trainer, tutors, and get to walk around campus as Kings. Aren’t they compensated enough? Yet as this whole issue of compensated players began to unravel, and the media began to flood the airways with gotcha material. It seems I the unmovable object has been moved, yet not without fears.

    Either I wasn’t aware or just didn’t put two and two together. I had forgotten or missed that Student Athletes are not allowed one certain privilege as normal college students are. ((The ability to Make Money)) A musical student can write a song, sell it, make millions, and still retain their scholarship. A language and arts major can write a book have it published, make millions, and still retain their scholarship. A science major can invent something, Patent such said invention, make millions and still retain their scholarship. Yet a basketball, or football player can’t even get a job to have some spending money.

    My fear is the classic saying, “Give and inch and they’ll take a mile”. The judgment as of the present moment may seem small and quite affordable to the NCAA and Colleges. However will it stop there? I don’t think so. Already arguments are being made that student athletes should be able to market themselves for fat paydays. Just think of the back room deals and it’s affects on recruiting on that one.

    I think Student Athletes should be compensated but at what price? You know everybody runs around talking about how much money the colleges are making with the new TV money, Maybe I’m wrong but most of them are losing money and relies heavily on contributions from donors to balance the books. So what happens when these colleges have to start paying their student athletes? Will we lose other sports? How will this affect College sports overall? Will college sports become about 40 schools that have the land mass, population, and resources to explore this unknown? Maybe this is what the power 5 is all about? Separating themselves from the have-not’s.

    I really don’t know, but I do have my fears.

  • @DoubleDD

    This is the start of a slippery slope. If players are paid beyond the compensation they get from the school by the way of tuition, room and board, trainers, coaches, tutors and exposure, then they become professionals and might as well create professional college league with top schools, since most schools will not be able to compete.

    Keep in mind that the average student whose family cannot afford the tuition and cannot get financial aid, will need to get loans to attend college and graduates with a $100K debt. Athlete, on the other have tuition, books, room and board paid for. They have a dinning room dedicated to them with dieticians that fix their meals as ordered by the trainers, they have access to the best coaching money can buy and state of the art practice and training facilities to prepare them for a career in sports which most will not even pursue, and can graduate with zero debt, while students working on actual degrees have to work on sub-par facilities with meager resources that many times do not adequately prepare them for the jobs they are studying for. Also, contrarily to popular belief, athletes do get spending money and they have the option of living off campus with their expenses paid as part of their scholarship packages. The reports that students athletes do not have money to buy food are a big myth; just look at all the tattoos, jewelry and electronics they haul and you know those things do not come cheap, and if they can afford those luxuries, they should certainly be able to afford food, don’t you think?

    If you are a graduate student and do advanced research you have to sign agreements where the University retains the rights to any by product developed in university facilities. TTBOMK, there is nothing that prevents a student athlete from getting a job, other than time constraints; although there is a limit on earnings during the school year but no limit in the summer.

    If you are employed, any process or product you develop while employed, usually becomes the property of the employer and, in most cases, you derive no benefit from it. My previous employer, for whom I have not worked for many, many years, still has my picture and resume prominent;y displayed in the company web site (along with other key personnel) to attract potential clients; I have never been compensated for the use of my likeness, even when it has helped get new clients.

    The more complicated parts is how much do you pay athletes for the use of their images or for their actual play. Do you pay Wiggins more than you pay the other less famous players, even when without the supporting cast Wiggins would not be able to showcase his talent? If you pay different players different amounts, what does it do for team chemistry? Do lesser players go on strike demanding equal pay? As I said, it quickly snowballs into an unmanageable mess.

    I personally believe student athletes, particularly at the bigger programs, have a pretty sweet deal already. If we are going to pay student athletes, then let’s remove the pretense that they are actually “students,” make them full time athletes, remove all the academic requirements and field a professional team to represent the school.

  • KU basketball players make money playing basketball: why else do they work all those camps during the summer?

    The issue is, can they make money directly from their participation in KU basketball?

    A Lit major can write a book and sell it, yes, but does he/she get paid for doing an assignment? No.

    Suppose the assigned work later gets published: then the author makes money.

    The O’Bannon ruling is like that: players only get paid if their image is sold, they don’t get paid simply because they are playing.

  • The O’Bannon ruling points to a long held legal principle - you own the rights to your name and image. For years, the NCAA and its member schools made money from promoting various things using the images of players - either in video games or in print material. Now, if the NCAA wants to do that, they will have to compensate athletes.

    That means that what will likely happen is the NCAA will stop selling jerseys with various numbers on them depending on what number certain star players wear. You won’t be able to go to the team store and buy a KU basketball jersey with the number of the star power forward on it. You won’t be able to go to the team store for Oklahoma and buy the football jersey of the starting QB. Already, they have stopped selling the video games and there will likely be some sort of settlement for that.

    I have long argued that athletes are restricted much more than other scholarship students. Let’s look at this another way. KU has a strong journalism program. That program gives out scholarships. A student gets a journalism scholarship. During the summer, they get a paid internship at the LJW. In addition to that, a local Lawrence business owner that likes to hire KU students gives this journalism student a job at a local flower shop with some very nominal responsibilities, basically allowing the student to study while at work and get paid.

    If an athlete were to do the same thing, they would not be able to work for the summer in the same area as their scholarship. Moreover, NCAA rules would require that if they worked somewhere else, it would have to be documented that they were actually working and not just goofing off or studying. That’s a huge difference to me.

  • @ParisHawk

    Student cannot make money form their sport or work for the School’s Athletic Department during the the academic year and there is a limit on how much money they can earn per semester, presumably to ensure that athletes maintain their full time classroom eligibility; however, they can work in their sport and Work for the the School’s Athletic Department and there is no limit on earnings in the Summer.

    As you indicated, a Lit Major can write anything and derive whatever profit he/she can from it; however, if the school its paying for his/her tuition, room and board and providing instructors and tutors to guide him/her ion his/her work outside the classroom, then I am sure the school would want to retain ownership of the end product… Nobody gets paid to doing assignments; you pay to go to school to do assignments and have them reviewed and graded. Practicing basketball is not an assignment since it is not part of the academic curriculum; this is why it is called extra-curricular activities.

    As per O’Bannon himself, payment for use of the image is part one of the lawsuit and the next part includes athletes being paid for participating in an extra-curricular activity, i.e. sports.


    Yes, it is true that you own the rights to your name and image, unless you cede those rights to a third party for some agreed upon remuneration. Up to now, student have by default ceded those rights to the schools in return for getting a scholarship package which at KU is worth at least $25K for in-state and $40K for out-of-state students every year.

    Now, if the School of Journalism gives you a full ride and asks you in return that you write, say a manual for the Departments, guess who will have ownership of the finished product…it is not going to be you.

    All grad assistants on research assistantships have to sign documents in which you agree that all intellectual property and all products resulting from work while on the assistantship belong to the university and not you. When I was working on my doctoral degree and working at the Remote Sensing Lab on West Camps, I had to sign a release like that in return for the monthly stipend I received…which is not even close to what athletes received. IMHO, athletes get a pretty sweet deal.

  • @JayHawkFanToo I think the problem for the athletes is they have no real way of profiting from their own image while in college. For instance, a journalism student could submit their work to a magazine or other outlet and get paid for it as long as they do it on their own time. A college basketball player can’t leave practice at KU and go somewhere and get paid to play basketball without forfeiting their scholarship. Again, the scholarships have roughly the same value and both students are receiving exposure from being at KU - but only one can directly profit while still in school without forfeiting their scholarship.

    That’s the major difference IMHO. As an athlete your scholarship basically prevents you from benefiting from your name and likeness without putting your scholarship in jeopardy. That is where the inequality comes in.

  • @justanotherfan

    I think you are comparing apples and oranges. I don’t believe there is an academic scholarship that provides close to what an athletic scholarship does. You have to consider that in addition to tuition, room and board that athletic scholarships provide and academic only partially provide, athletes get a world class coaches and trainers and state of the practice facilities to develop their non-school related skills and tutors for the academic skills. This would be the equivalent of the school providing a selected group of students a Pulitzer winning author to work with them for several hours every day, other world class writers to help them hone their writing skills and provide facilities where they can do the work and on-call techs to help them with word processing questions…in the real world this does not happen.

    IMHO, athletes are compensated handsomely for the school’s use of their image.

  • @JayHawkFanToo I would respectfully disagree - academic scholarship winners have access to world class coaches and trainers with their professors. In addition, academic scholarship winners can have those professors introduce them to individuals in the professional world.

    Bill Self cannot introduce his players to RC Buford. A business professor at KU can introduce their academic scholars to a prominent KU business graduate. Scholarship students have access to writing labs and such, as well as tutoring and special luncheons / banquets, etc. Just about every department has a scholarship banquet in which all of the scholarship recipients are brought to a banquet where they can meet and mingle with donors, etc. and actually do networking and get jobs, internships, etc. Athletes aren’t really able to do this.

  • @justanotherfan

    Again, you are comparing apples to oranges.

    First, KU has very few (if any) professors that I would consider world class, and the better one teach mostly at the graduate level. By the way, all of this is also available to student-athletes since they are “students” too. However, the coaching and training staff is not available to the non-athlete student since the they are not part of the athletic program.

    All of the services/introductions that you indicate a professor can provide/make, he can also do the exact same thing for a student-athletes; however, the contacts that Coach Self or Coach Weis have with professional teams and other programs are not available to non-athletes. Who do you think advises athletes whether to go on the draft or stay in school. what part of the game to develop, how to showcase their skills? The coaches, through their extensive networks and relationships with professional teams and scouts get this information for the athletes. In fact. most (if not all) student-athletes that want to work in sports get their jobs through their coaches and trainers contacts.

    The benefits I listed for student-athletes are above and beyond what the average paying or scholarship, non-athlete student receives. On the other hand, the benefits you listed for regular student are also available to student-athletes. The benefits student-athletes receive are well above any other non-athlete student receives or is available to him. It is not even close.

    Last, in my own personal opinion, college professors are the last resource I would personally use to get a job after getting my undergraduate degree (graduate degrees are different). “Most” undergraduate level professors are completely removed from the real world and have no real contacts with the business community; the school’s placement office is a much better resource. Why do you think people want to go to Ivy League schools? Do you actually think that it is the professors that help you get a job? No, it is the connections others students have; it might be your roommate’s father that heads a Fortune 500 firm, or you fraternity brother’s uncle that has his own business. By the way, donors are more likely/eager to mingle with student-athletes than with your run of the mill non-athlete student. For the last thirty years I have been in positions where i had to evaluate new hires/recent graduates for entry and other level positions and not one of them came through an undergraduate college professor recommendation. Candidates with advanced graduate degrees are different, but we are not talking about those, right?

    I don’t mean this in any personal way and there is no ill intent or offense attached since I don’t know you personally and I am not familiar with your background, but you seem to have a very idealistic view of the world…I used to be that way 30+ years ago and then life happened…

    Again, on this issue I will respectfully agree to disagree.

  • @JayHawkFanToo

    I appreciate the back and forth and have taken no offense to any of the posts that you have made. I hope that I have likewise been able to make my points in a way that doesn’t come off as standoffish or offensive.

    I will agree with you that there are some inherent benefits to being a student athlete that a regular student does not get to enjoy. However, there are some drawbacks, too. While I was in college I was asked to be pictured in a promotion for student life. I was just a regular student, so I was paid for my appearance in the promotional materials. A friend of mine that was a student athlete could have participated as well, but could not have been paid for their appearance (and opted not to appear). That seemed unfair to me at the time because I myself was on scholarship (academic) and it wasn’t like we were getting rich for this - I think we made $50 each for the four or five of us that appeared. That experience probably shapes my viewpoint on this issue more than anything. It seemed unfair to me when I was 19 and it still seems unfair to me now.

  • Banned

    I so wish I could agree with everyone, yet also disagree with everyone. I see the valid points on both side of the aisle. On one hand the NCAA wants to be there when a student athlete farts and savor the smell, yet on the other hand what will happen to college sports if they start paying student athletes? There are so many ifs, buts, and unanswered questions. I’m getting to be and old man and I know this once you let the cat out of the bag it’s not going back in there. What happens today or tomorrow may seem small and no big deal, but these are just stepping stones. Where does it stop? When does it stop? I’m starting to believe this power five allegiance has something to do with it. Should we be happy KU has a chair at the table? or should we mourn that maybe college sports as we know it maybe be reaching the end of it’s days?

Log in to reply