Jim Delaney, the longtime commissioner of the Big Ten Conference said this week that if college athletes are paid for their services, the Big Ten would likely cease to exist, and the Rose Bowl would not be played. Delaney’s remarks came on the witness stand in Oakland, California as lawyers argue the suit brought forth by former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon.
O’Bannon’s landmark suit claims that athletes should be paid for the use of their names and likeness on television and in video games. The NCAA has countered that if O’Bannon wins the lawsuit, college sports would be thrown into turmoil. Delaney stated that college sports would be severely damaged if a century old tradition is breached by payments to athletes. (Which tradition is he speaking of? Perhaps the one where NCAA officials and other people in college sports line their pockets with the billions of dollars generated by these young men and women?)
“These games are owned by the institutions, and the notion of paying athletes for their participation in these games is foreign to the notion of amateurism,” Delaney said.
Delaney went on to say that the Big Ten gets hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue from its sports, with each school getting around $25 million as their share. Delaney also said most of that money goes into programs and academics. (Programs is a very vague area) While under cross examination, Delaney was asked how much of the $230 million in broadcast rights and from the Big Ten Network goes to the athletes? Delaney replied, “There is no share of broadcast rights.”
Ed O’Bannon hopes to change all that with a win in his lawsuit. He hopes that all college athletes who have ever had their images, names or numbers displayed on video games will get together and sell the rights to use those images, with payments being made to the athletes when they leave school. (So much for violating amateurism)
I have an idea; let the schools pay their athletes a specified amount when and if they finish school and get a degree. No diploma, no paycheck...simple as that. That could be the biggest reason yet to keep up their grade point averages and stay eligible. That sounds simple and it is, but you can bet the farm that even if Judge Claudia Wilken rules in favor of Ed O’Bannon, the NCAA will appeal, and appeal again, and appeal again; all the way to the Supreme Court. This will be tied up for years in the courts, with the only ones getting rich being the lawyers.
Something has to give. There is too much money being made on big-time college sports, and the college athletes deserve to get something, even if it’s a weekly stipend for date money and for extra food. Do I think college athletes should get rich? No…but I have been a proponent for years to give them something. Being in college is hard enough and when you add in twenty to thirty hours a week to play a varsity sport, you have little time for anything else. Playing a college sport is like having a part-time job in addition to getting your school work.
There are a couple of things you can be sure of. First, the NCAA will fight any movement to pay athletes tooth and nail. Secondly, while this thing works its way through the court system, the NCAA will get richer and so will the big-time athletic conferences...and that’s a downright shame.
Randy Smith has been covering sports on radio, television and print for the past 45 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has written two books, and has continued to free-lance as a play-by-play announcer. He is currently teaching Broadcasting at Coahulla Creek High School near Dalton, Ga.
His career has included a 17-year stretch as host of the Kickoff Call In Show on the University of Tennessee’s prestigious Vol Network. He has been a member of the Vol Network staff for thirty years.
He has done play-by-play on ESPN, ESPN II, CSS, and Fox SportSouth, totaling more than 500 games, and served as a well-known sports anchor on Chattanooga Television for more than a quarter-century.
In 2003, he became the first television broadcaster to be inducted into the Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame. Randy and his wife Shelia reside in Hixson. They have two married children, (Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith.) They have three grandchildren, Coleman, Boone and DellaMae.
To contact Randy: firstname.lastname@example.org