Everyone knows that college athletics is broken. It was bad enough when we only had to worry about exploited athletes holding up a system where administrators, coaches, and everyone else involved made money off of their play but the athletes themselves. Now we have a new flip side to college athletics with the rich and famous using phony athletic scholarships to get their kids into fancy colleges to impress their equally rich and famous friends.
While all of these isseus with college athletics can’t be fixed overnight, we have to start somewhere. And the NCAA can’t seemingly even get that right, with the status quo largely being kept in place. That has only led to more and more people speaking out about change needing to happen. The latest voice is an important one, arguably the most important one in college basketball—Dick Vitale.
Vitale has been the face of ESPN’s college basketball coverage since the network’s inception. And while he doesn’t have the lead role at the network anymore (that belongs to one of the NCAA’s foremost critics in Jay Bilas), his voice still carries a lot of weight. With March Madness upon us and the question of athlete compensation being a big talking point this season thanks to Zion Williamson’s injury, Vitale took the occasion to offer his own suggestion. He says that players should be able to make money off of endorsements and other opportunities to help clean up the “cesspool” that the NCAA has become.
Take a look at Zion. Why shouldn’t he play and get paid? It’s a cesspool—guys hustling kids, hustling dollars. Let me tell you this: We can solve that in a heartbeat. A kid like Zion, let him be allowed to get those dollars. He can make appearances, he can endorse a product. We got a tournament going on, and everyone’s making millions. Let those kids be able to benefit! It eliminates all that dirty stuff that goes on behind the scenes, and it’s there. Let’s face it. You’ve got coaches getting fired for taking bribes, or to make believe and lie on an application that the kid’s an athlete. It’s a cesspool! And it’s just ridiculous and absurd.
Allowing players to make money off endorsements and their likeness isn’t a permanent solution, but at least it’s a start. Really, it’s the least the NCAA can do at the moment to allow athletes like Williamson and others to capitalize on their success while in college.
Sadly, the NCAA has been dragging their feet on a solution like this for years. All the way back in 2013, Bilas exposed the NCAA’s own shop for profiting off of athletes and their likeness. The NCAA was selling merchandise where searching an active player’s name brought up their exact replica jersey. Bilas calling out the NCAA even led them to stopping the hypocritical practice, but it hasn’t led them to produce any kind of reasonable idea for paying players. Hopefully as more pressure comes from the likes of Bilas, Vitale and others, change will eventually, finally come.