By Pranay Malempati | Sports Writer
After the LSU Tigers won the College Football Playoff National Championship, current NFL and former LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was spotted handing out money to some of the LSU players, specifically receivers Justin Jefferson and Jontre Kirklin. Neither player had declared for the NFL draft at the time, although Jefferson has since declared, so they were still NCAA athletes.
According to NCAA rules, it was illegal for the players to take the money Beckham Jr. gave them because players are not allowed to accept benefits while they are in the NCAA. Beckham Jr. is considered affiliated with the university because of his status as a former player, but he is not an official booster.
While it is now unlikely that the NCAA will sanction LSU, this incident allows us to look at the financial situation of college athletes as a whole.
Sports lawyer Jason Setchen, who defended Brian Bowen in the Louisville basketball scandal that led to head coach Rick Pitino’s firing, said the NCAA can legally hold its athletes from receiving monetary incentives (outside of scholarships and approved gifts). Setchen said the players have to agree to adhere to the NCAA’s regulations when they sign with a school to play sports.
While it is currently legal, I don’t think the NCAA should be able to put restrictions on benefits and sponsorships that its athletes receive from the outside. Specifically for football, if a player wants to go the NFL, there is no other reasonable venue to do so outside of playing in college.
The football system in America forces top athletes to go through the NCAA and agree to whatever regulations it decides to enforce. While only a very tiny fraction of NCAA athletes even make it to the NFL, these players don’t really have a choice if they want a chance at turning football into their career.
Many college football stars don’t even make it in the NFL. They deserve to have the opportunity to earn outside benefits and sponsorships for the work they put in during their time playing NCAA football.
In some states, such as Florida and California, legislation has been passed that will soon allow NCAA athletes to sign endorsement deals and receive outside financial benefits.
Setchen said the NCAA will likely try to fight this legislation by claiming that it is interrupting the regulation of interstate commerce, which would go under federal, rather than state, jurisdiction.
“The NCAA has claimed interstate commerce to fight this before,” Setchen said. “We’ll see if it works this time.”
Whether it comes at the federal or state level, there needs to be legislation that allows college athletes to earn money based on sponsorships and outside finances. If an athlete is producing revenue for his university and has the opportunity to receive money because of their performance why should the NCAA be able to stop them?