NCAA Sea Change On the Horizon? Texas A&M Football & Others Could Soon Pay Athletes Directly
It’s no secret to Texas A&M football fans, or really anyone that is following the sport, that the NIL landscape currently resembles a lawless wasteland. The clandestine nature of many of these deals leads to no shortage of uncomfortable situations for both schools and players, with players wondering how much other guys on the team are making and schools often held hostage by the yearly free agency that the portal has become. Of course, there is a crowd that could care less about the latter, as they consider the schools having had power over the athletes for long enough to be justification for whatever chaos the shoe being on the other foot might cause. As the saying goes, though, two wrongs don’t make a right; and less-than-ideal situation isn’t something that will be solved by another less-than-ideal situation that’s just the reverse of the first one.
In a move that many have speculated about for quite some time, Ross Dellenger of Sports Illustrated is reporting that the president of the NCAA, Charlie Baker, has proposed the creation of a new NCAA subdivision for schools that wish to directly compensate athletes through both NIL and a trust fund.
According to Dellenger’s story, schools that opt into this division—it is entirely optional—would have to invest at least $30,000 per athlete per year into a trust fund; as Dellenger notes, this would be about $6 million per year at a minimum. Schools are not required to deposit the same for each athlete; however, in accordance with Title IX, at least 50% of the investment would be required to be directed towards female athletes.
Dellenger makes it clear that the NCAA has not termed this a revenue sharing model, does not support such a model, and still would consider “pay-for-play” out of bounds. However, it is hard to not see this as a major step towards such a model.
This new subdivision would still “remain under the umbrella of the NCAA,” allowing schools to continue to compete for NCAA championships in other sports. Perhaps the most significant part here is that this move would crystallize the long-anticipated move by the now-Power 4 conferences away from the rest of FBS, as these higher-revenue athletic departments are the ones currently best-equipped to handle this new set of rules. Another note: schools within this subdivision would no longer be subject to limits regarding the number of scholarships or coaches allowed.
It appears that this is a move aimed at quelling some of the pressure being placed on the NCAA by Congress. Even so, Dellenger says, this would not quite mollify the chief concern of most of the current legislative discussion: that the athletes be termed employees. Again, though, this feels like such a huge concession in that direction that such a result is a foregone conclusion if this goes through.
These are changing times. Texas A&M football has to change with them if they wish to stay competitive. Fortunately, I believe the Aggies now have a head man who is intent on staying ahead of these changes in Mike Elko. I’m eager to see what this new frontier brings for Texas A&M football.