By Kevin Conneran, Associate Staff
With the beginning of a new football season, every college football fan is acutely aware of the challenges that his or her school will face this season. However, more pressing than your school’s mid-October game against its in-state rival is the issue of player compensation.
The debate over compensation is nothing new in college sports. For years, there have been calls to more fairly compensate student-athletes. Is tuition, room, board, and books fair compensation for athletes who generate millions of dollars for their schools? South Carolina head football coach Steve Spurrier has been outspoken in his support for player compensation, stating that he wished he could give players a “piece of the pie” that they help create.
The latest development that has reignited this debate is the 2009 lawsuit filed against the NCAA by former college basketball player Ed O’Bannon that has been joined by current and former football and basketball players. Detailed information on that lawsuit can be found here. The O’Bannon lawsuit takes aim at two major revenue sources for the NCAA and its member institutions both tied to player’s images and likeness: television revenue and video game licensing.
In July, the NCAA announced that they would not renew its licensing agreement with EA Sports, maker of the NCAA College Football video game franchise. The Pac-12, Big Ten, and the SEC have followed suit and announced that they will not be a part of the franchise moving forward. While this may sound like a win for those championing reform in college athletics, the practical effect of these moves seems to be minimal. While the NCAA and major conferences have severed their ties with EA Sports, each university still has its own licensing agreements with EA Sports. According to industry sources, only one team that appeared in this year’s version of NCAA College Football will not appear in next year’s.
It seems NCAA College Football has at least a few more years left in it. At the end of the day, colleges will continue to use players’ likeness without paying compensation until the threat of litigation becomes too onerous. Until then, college athletes will continue to play for tuition, room, board, and books. I’m sure Johnny Manziel is thrilled.