The blazing effulgence of the near future of college athletics spearheaded by college football and the gods of the gridiron, as a swarm of professionals demand a medium-sized nation bandwidth of servers chases run amateur status into the desolate wilderness. The laissez-faire environment of reallocated wealth will finally match an icon to a tangible value, as Saturday superstars will no longer have to beg for a burger and a milkshake. Has the pageantry and wholesome innocence been forever tarnished on a surface level, or will the legalization of marijuana style of policy in brandishing light to the murky underworld of shady dealings enhance the gameday experience for the players and the fans alike?
In the infantile stages of lucrative Name, Image, and Likeness deals further cementing the legend of iconic college athletes, the real fun exists for the majority of non-household names. Similar to burgeoning economies, trade far outweighs transactions in the beginning stages, as investors gradually gain confidence, and templates for substantial earnings are tried and tested. While, the big guns, or the faces of NCAA football and men’s basketball are already profiting from the rabid nature of loyal fan bases, the secondary market has taken on a mind of its own, as small college athletes are pairing up with the small business community in a valuable course of Marketing 101 that transcends any offering on campus.
If University of Oregon sensation defensive end sensation Kayvon Thibodeaux can orchestrate a side deal with United Airlines to cover the bill for air transport of Duck road games, a Division 3 running back can certainly barter with the local pizza and brew adjacent to campus, or with an area sporting goods store for shoes. The intriguing opportunities for a liberal arts school small college fast pitch softball player adds vibrancy and endless possibilities for those still possessing an imagination outside the addictive realm of social media and video gaming. Society has far passed the threshold of where a free education, board, and a pat on the rear suffices for superstar athletes as the foundation in funding athletic departments and creating prestige for universities in raising billions by attracting network television deals.
Thibodeaux recently announced an innovative venture in the cryptocurrency market, where he will promote NIL inspired digital monies and Non-Fungible tokens as the main funding source for a charitable organization. While the current injured star is projected to be a top-5 NFL draft pick which guarantees millions of dollars without even setting a cleat on the gridiron, interestingly just a decade ago it was frowned upon that entrepreneurs betting on the future of a sports prospect would provide a substantial loan to the potential superstar in gambling that the student-athletes stardom would translate to the professional ranks. Now, selected players can live a posh lifestyle while still at the university level, and provide family and loved ones with financial support at the profitable intersection between potential and expectations. However, the exciting development may have been the final nail in the coffin for the much-maligned NCAA, as the enforcer of universal rules reached a International Olympic Committee of ineffectiveness 25 years ago.
The NCAA historically has blundered the guidelines of scholarship athletes off the field, by barring individuals from holding a job during their respective playing seasons in earning some extra cash to enhance the dorm lifestyle. This oversight is especially harsh for lower income 4 and 5 star scholarship holders, who previously to the NIL enlightenment were at the whim of boosters. This trickle down bureaucratically-infused multifaceted calamities of compound fracture policy also had adverse effects on Title IX and small college athletes, where in some cases limited financial assistance was granted. With a paid internship absolutely out of the question for competing student athletes as a prime example in a sordid dirty laundry list of regressive and stringent mandates, makes the existence of the governing body of once upon a time was amateur sports, veritably unpalatable. The conferences can do something about this, and are, with the SEC wooing Oklahoma and Texas, fortunes from the primetime will dictate sudden change, a frenetic deviation from the college sports business model burdened by the board of Regents, and not the athletic department.
The legacy of Ed O’Bannon manifested in players finally receiving a deserved slice of the cash pie, and the pending involvement of the National Labor Relations Board in pressing student athletes to be classified as employees of an academic institution is already sending shockwaves around the solar system that the next 36 months will be a wild ride up the gravity well. The daunting infrastructure adding to the already prodigious Malaysian skyscraper of NCAA athletics, will surely reach into lower earth orbit, as floors upon floors comprised of insurance, tax code, and the dynamics surrounding the worker-employee relationship may result in a massive implosion, and the vaporization of the college sports governing body. Along with the reeducation environment of university culture in emphasizing activism over teaching skills applicable to the workforce, “disturbing” does not suffice in describing the fusion between student athletes and unionization.
As interested parties are bracing for the inevitable clash between athletes being unionized and the backlash of the NCAA in viciously fighting for survival, the brave new world of the NIL paradigm is at least the beginning of an exhilarating journey across the entire offering of college-affiliated athletics. From the epic star power of Thibodeaux in generating countless business deals to to the spirited efforts of the fastpitch softball player in learning the crucial art of networking, a skill that is becoming a premium in the digital framework of the information, the ramifications of unleashing the free market on these young adults will not be evident for at least five years. However, anytime a bureaucratic entity to the extent of the NCAA can be effectively nullified, and exterminating a self-serving hivemind fostering incompetency, a ledger of indiscretions can be overcome, and the Einstein cycle of insanity in expecting the different results from making the same costly mistakes over and over again, can be ended.
At least fans can be certain that counterproductive stipulations spewed from an obsolete organization will lead to a temporary renaissance, before the demands of Capitalism summon cries for economic equality, much like the clamoring of the US women’s soccer team calling for fair compensation, despite a heavily disproportionate level of revenue actually generated.
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