Cheney Free Press -

By Lee Hughes
Staff reporter 

On effects of college athlete profits

Crunch Time


Last updated 10/31/2019 at 1:36pm

Should college athletes be allowed to profit from their names, images and likenesses?

The National Collegiate Athletic Association apparently thinks so, according to a Tuesday, Oct. 29 press release in which the governing board announced it had unanimously voted to allow athletes to “benefit” — read profit — “in a manner consistent with the collegiate model,” from personal endorsements, and directed each of its three divisions to begin the process of updating their bylaws and policies.

The pressure to do so has been long in coming. California recently passed a law prohibiting post-secondary schools from penalizing student-athletes for receiving monetary endorsements, a move that seemingly forcing the NCAA’s hand.

It has a basis in equity — the change will allow student athletes to be treated the same as non-athletic students while ostensibly keeping the focus on education.

Yet, while allowing athletes to benefit from cult of fame, the change will also further blur the lines between education and the business of free market profit, and take students’ focus even further away from the game and their studies, which is the main point of college in the first place.

I recently talked with two female Eastern Washington University college sophomore athletes about the pressures of balancing a full academic load while also competing in college athletics as freshman. They were clear that there was a significant amount of pressure from all sides — professors, coaches, friends and the change from home to college life in general while traveling to away games, which required them to think weeks ahead, merging their game schedules with practices, class schedules, assignments, tests and exams.

Adding a profit motive on top of all that would seem a receipt for disaster.

A nine-year study published in 2015 found that the incidents of suicide in NCAA student athletes were lower than that of the rest of the population. But while lower, male athletes, particularly football players, where found to be at the greatest risk. Case in point, Washington State University starting quarterback Tyler Hilinski, who shot himself in January 2018. And that was without the added pressures of branding and endorsements.

In my reporting I was assured that EWU went to great lengths to monitor its athletes and ensure they balanced studies, athletics and life in general as much as is possible in the environment in which they had chosen to immerse themselves.

How will student athletes be protected in the new era of image branding and endorsement money?

Will a profit motive force colleges to hire non-profit agents — employees of the schools, perhaps — for athletes if only to protect these young adults from the predatory world of professional agents? How will the NCAA monitor academics, athletics and endorsements? Perhaps college business majors will be allowed to intern as agents under professionals. If so, will they also eventually ask for a cut of the profits?

It’s a potentially slippery slope with a likelihood of many latent, unintended consequences down the road.

The issue isn’t yet engraved in stone. The NCAA, along with a working group of federal and state legislators will continue to consider the change, with recommendations “on the principles and regulatory framework” due no later than January 2021.

Lee Hughes can be reached at


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