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Free Agency in College? SAU Students Share their views on whether student-athletes should be compensated

On July 1, 2021, the landscape of college athletics in the United States changed dramatically. For years, college athletes were barred from using their name, image, and likeness (NIL) as a tool to earn income. The thousands of college athletes across the country were not allowed to profit off themselves; this includes their social media pages, commercials for local or national businesses, merchandise, and so much more. Those opposed to the idea of NIL argue that student-athletes are already compensated enough via scholarships and attaining a degree. Others believe that allowing students to profit off their game will completely ruin the charm of college athletics; that the powerhouse schools will begin landing more and more of the top recruits simply because they can offer the most in terms of brand deals and compensation.

One of the more notable events in this debate deals with an antitrust lawsuit filed against the NCAA by Ed O’Bannon in 2009. O’Bannon, a former basketball player for UCLA, argued that since his likeness was being used in a video game about college basketball, he should be receiving some form of compensation. Eventually, many more former college athletes joined in as plaintiffs and they ultimately won the case in 2015. This case had a much more lasting impact than simply the settlements; people began asking the question, “Is it okay for college athletes to not be allowed to accept compensation for the use of their likeness, simply because they are students?”

For this piece, we asked students of SAU as well as people from the community, “Should college athletes be allowed to receive compensation while still maintaining the designation of ‘student’?” The interviewees come from all different stages in life; some are current Ambrose students, and some have already graduated from college.

Ryan, who is a senior and athlete at Ambrose claims, “I would say I support NIL for student-athletes. Before it was legal, many athletes were taken advantage of and used for profit by their schools and other sports organizations. NIL deals became, in a way, protection for players to have certain abilities, and the fans that come along with that, to be turned into huge profits for schools with relatively little of that going to athletes.”

Garret, a swimmer here at Ambrose says, “I support the different NIL deals athletes can now make. It’s a great opportunity for kids to be sponsored and successful. I think the athletes should be able to accept the money that they are given after school is done.”

A current senior here at St. Ambrose, who is also an athlete but preferred to remain anonymous, says, “I think, yes! Student-athletes, especially those who are likely to be approached by companies for NIL deals, put a lot of time, effort, and energy into their sport. Personally, I have sacrificed quite a bit to play my sport, and if I were to be at a level where I was looked at for a deal, I would expect to get some sort of money.”

Josh, who is also a student at St. Ambrose but does not play a sport, has a similar response albeit a bit more curious, “I think it’s great that they can receive money now for doing things that any other person would be able to do freely. I guess I just don’t quite understand why it’s any different than having a job? Millions of college students have a job, no problem, why are athletes different?”

Another student who is not an athlete, Alex, echoed some points of the other students, “Student-athletes at D1 universities are making a bunch of money for their schools. They should see a cut of that. NIL deals also allow student-athletes to build up a following that they utilize even after college. There are so many possibilities opened up by NIL.”

As one can see the overall impression from those who were interviewed was that college athletes are deserving of being allowed to accept compensation in exchange for their name, image, and likeness. To many, it seems like a necessary evolution in the world of college athletics. But, to some, it may require more time to play out and see if it benefits everyone as it seems to.

Jackson Graber is a staff writer for The Buzz.