Pearl River Alabama’s football coach, Nick Saban has now suggested that college player compensation needs to be regulated and says, “I mean, unionize it. Make it like the NFL. It’s going to be the same for everyone. I think that’s better than what we have now.” Either this is the now the end times and the apocalypse is upon us, or the play pretend situation of the NCAA exploiting college athletes while making billions by pretending they are all student amateurs is finally in the death throes. It’s time to put a stake in it.
It’s all crashing down on the NCAA now, and they need to act fast or go out of business. The facts are making a farce out of their falsehoods.
The 2021 unanimous decision by the Supreme Court where the NCAA was “characterized as a price-fixing cartel” should have been the final warning that they needed to change. And, they did, sort of. The decision made it possible for college athletes to profit from their own names, image, and likeness, making some millionaires while still in school. The Iowa women’s basketball star, Caitlin Clark, would have lost money turning pro with the Women’s NBA because of the money she could make as a breakout representative in her state and for women’s basketball nationally.
She’s just one of many these days, but even more are starting to collect, but it’s in some sketchy ways, as Saban and other top tier football coaches know too well. The so-called booster collectives, some of whom are trying to claim they are tax-exempt nonprofits, which is ridiculous since they only exist to pay athletes to play and to stay at their schools, are now funneling money directly to players, similar to a salary. Some claim it is compensation for charity events, but that’s pretty much a charade. The top four teams in the football playoffs, Michigan, Washington, Alabama, and Texas all had versions of this going for them. I hate to think what LSU must have put on the table to recruit the top player in the 2024 class as a signee for their team, who incidentally was a Michigan high schooler. It’s an arms’ race as coaches are calling it, and as even Saban indicates, it favors only the biggest, most popular, and deepest pocket schools, who number about eighteen.
Add to this the fact that the NLRB is holding hearings on a petition for the University of Southern California players to determine if they are employees or not. Reported testimony thus far leaves no doubt that whatever they are, they aren’t students really. Meaning they are unpaid employees, which is called forced labor in most quarters.
The transfer portal that allows players to move from school to school now where they have the best opportunities to play, and maybe to make more money, has changed the entire college game, putting even more pressure on schools, coaches, and even fans. Schools know this, and they are also moving to the sound of the money. Oklahoma and Texas are soon to be SEC schools. Others are traveling across the country to go Big Ten. If you’re an athlete, you don’t need a weatherman to tell you where the wind is blowing. Why is it so hard for the NCAA to figure this out?
It’s past time and the game’s up for the NCAA. To even pretend that there is an even playing field, regulation is going to come or unionization is inevitable. Both are needed, and the time is now.