Iowa Hawkeye twitter was awash in Name, Image and Likeness discussions on Wednesday. Or maybe it wasn’t, because it’s not like I am the arbiter of Hawkeye Twitter…so maybe I should say, my twitter feed was awash with NIL discussions.
I have traveled a long path on the NIL/college athlete compensation topic…going from staunchly opposed to athletes receiving compensation beyond their scholarship to now firmly being in the camp of live and let live, allow the free market to dictate value and worth and seeing the NCAA fight as nothing more than those in power looking to stay in power, which is one of the most basic human desires.
My old thinking was mostly this; I borrowed my way through college. I came out of college with nearly $30K in student loans in 1994 dollars, or roughly $54,000 in today’s dollars. It took me until the age of 36 to pay those off, and I often thought about what I could have done with that money during those early years of life relative to investing and the power of compounding interest. Wait, who am I kidding, I would have blown it on a BWM 5 series and beer and probably be dead. But still, I COULD have invested it, and those monthly student loan payments SUUUUUCKED.
College athletes are not going to have student loans…they are get a free education and they will be able to save more money because they won’t be paying loans, and their scholarships plus training table and tutors have an immense value, that is compensation enough.
THAT was the crux of my thinking, along with believing that having open season for paying athletes would give blue blood programs who are on TV more a greater advantage in recruiting.
That was old me…that was ten years ago me. A lot has changed in that time, or at least, a lot between my ears.
First, my old rationale about me walking up hill both ways to school and paying my own way…to that I now say, so what? Work out a little harder, lift more weights and maybe I could have gotten a scholarship somewhere. Or rather, if I would have applied myself more in high school and college, perhaps I could have picked up a scholarship or two. But I didn’t, so I didn’t.
REGARDLESS, the bigger thing that now influences my thinking on this is….so what if they get paid? What harm does it do to me? Will I enjoy watching college sports less because these guys are getting paid on top of their scholarship? Of course I won’t, and to think otherwise feels intellectually dishonest here.
As for the blue blood programs having more advantages…Ohio State is positioned fairly well here. The Columbus Ohio MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area) is 2.078 million people. Cedar Rapids is less than 300,000 and Iowa City is 171,000 and change. Columbus has more businesses and larger businesses than does Iowa City and Cedar Rapids. That means more endorsement opportunities for Ohio State players, etc.
HOWEVER…Ohio State has the same 85-man scholarship limits that Iowa has. Ohio State rarely loses a head to head recruiting battle with Iowa, so Ohio State already has built in advantages over Iowa. (I could see walk on compensation becoming a thing, however. Find some boosters who will essentially superfund more prospects, to cover their cost of education as well as a little something something on the side).
At any rate, I am in the camp of allowing players to own their NIL. That means I am in the camp of allowing players the opportunity to earn/receive compensation. Some folks have mentioned to me their concerns with unintended consequences.
To that, I say two things. 1) It’s a fair observation and 2) Hello, internet, twitter, facebook, etc.
Just because we could conceive some problems here and there doesn’t mean we shouldn’t push into it when we are talking about increasing individual freedoms and opportunities. And there could be other consequences we have no idea about…again, hello internet, twitter, facebook.
As I pondered a lot of these questions on Wednesday, I asked myself to consider who and what I cheer for relative to college athletics…or root for, or pull for, etc.
I make no apologies for admitting that I want Iowa to win every time they take the court, field, track, mat, etc. It’s where I grew up and it brings me joy. At the same time, I’d like to think I can objectively call balls and strikes relative to….whatever it is I have done and do online and in podcast form ‘covering’ the Hawkeyes.
So who and what do I root for?
The answer came quickly for me; I root for the people who wear the jerseys or singlets to perform as best they can, with a hope for a victorious outcome…or at least an outcome that brings pride and satisfaction.
Sedrick Shaw wore #5 for Iowa in the mid 1990’s and Drew Tate wore it in the early 2000’s and I wanted both of them to do well, perform well and help Iowa win games which translated in to personal joy.
Whoever is wearing the colors, I am for them not just while they are wearing the colors, but long after they wear the colors, too.
I listened to an episode of the Washed Up Walkons podcast last week where they interviewed Drew Tate, who might be my favorite Ferentz Era Hawkeye. I say might be because there are just so many! I found myself smiling ear to ear hearing Tate tell stories and all of the sudden be in the position as the old guy. It wondered how Drew was doing personally, does he have a family, etc…the sort of things that 50 year old dad’s wonder about in people…I really hope the best for him and all the players that brought me joy through the years. I love seeing former players I have connected with on Facebook because I love to see them in the role of father or mother or well adjusted human being.
It’s one of the reasons why Iowa’s loss to Oregon in the Round of 32 didn’t wreck me now the way it would have wrecked me when I was younger…because I care more about the people wearing the jerseys and them achieving the goals and dreams they are setting out to achieve than I do my own personal whims of fandom.
I want the best for them, because they are giving us their best.
Ergo, why wouldn’t I want for them to have the opportunity to set themselves up financially, or get ahead and put themselves in a better financial position for the rest of their lives by controlling something the rest of us control, which is our names, images and likenesses?
I don’t really have any allegiance to the University of Iowa. I didn’t go there, but I grew up near there, so that is how they became ‘my team’. I don’t have any allegiance to Southern Illinois University, and I did go there. I DO have allegiances to the friends I made while at Southern Illinois University 30 years ago and many of those friendships have lasted the test of time and several even longer relationships with my high school and grade school friends.
I have affinities for places, but I have a passion for people.
In this instance, yeah, I am all for the University of Iowa doing well, but I care more about their sports teams than anything else that happens on campus. Some of you that did attend Iowa will have a different opinion, but even then, I would challenge you to ask yourself if that is anything more than nostalgia…which is fine, in and of itself. But I suspect most people confuse affinity for places as opposed to the relationships that surrounded those places due to the strong tentacles of nostalgia. Again, this last bit is not a literary hill I would die on, because there are places, such as the Little Rose Bowl in West Branch, Richie Stout’s backyard in West Branch and Kinnick Stadium that still stir up strong emotions for me.
But in the case of the Little Rose Bowl, that place is connected with so many memories that are inescapably tethered to people; family, friends, the players who were on the gridiron. Richie’s backyard was the meeting place for most all of my friends, every day, every summer, from grade school through the time I left when I was 17. Kinnick Stadium…well, enough said.
So it’s about people. It’s about the players who put on the uniforms. It’s about the sacrifices they make that on the one hand provides a free education, but it also provides me immense joy.
Jordan Bohannon has had two hip surgeries, battled plantar fasciitis and a bum shoulder while I tweeted out THREE FOR JOBO! and other such things through the last five years. Thanks for the mems, Jordan..and I hope you can walk with your grandkids one day. Talk with any former football player and you will get the picture real fast.
No one forced them to take the free ride (but for many, it was their only chance at getting out of college without mountains of debt), but where else in the the private sector do we deprive adults the opportunity to monetize their skills to the fullest potential? Sign up for our free text group at 515-474-7216 and let me know if you have any ideas, because I would love to hear them.
I realize there are more layers to this and angles I have not considered. I am always willing to listen. But as of yet, those who are against athletes controlling their NIL have yet to put forth a significant or compelling reason to make me remotely reconsider my opinion.