EDITORIAL: College athletes finally get some long-overdue, but much-deserved compensation

  • The NCAA has an interim policy allowing athletes to earn name, image and likeness compensation.
  • The NCAA made the move after numerous states passed their own NIL legisation.
  • A local product, former West York High athlete Trinity Thomas, already has an NIL offer.
Florida's Trinity Thomas scores a 10 on the floor during a gymnastics meet at Penn State in State College, Saturday, March 7, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo

NCAA athletics have entered a brave new world, albeit kicking and screaming.

It’s about time.

For decades, high-profile college athletes had to sit by and watch coaches, administrators, universities and the NCAA swim in cash that was produced directly off of their efforts.

The athletes, meanwhile, received little beyond a scholarship.

We’re not saying that a full scholarship is not valuable. It’s probably worth $250,000. College athletics, however, is a billion-dollar business and the athletes simply weren’t getting their fair share of that very large pot.

Last week that changed, at least to a degree, despite the NCAA’s longstanding efforts to stop it.

Prodded by laws passed in numerous states, including Pennsylvania, the NCAA finally relented and instituted an interim policy to allow all college athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness.

How this all eventually shakes out is anyone’s guess, but it’s a long overdue change.

The athletes, finally, are justly getting a bigger piece of the enormous college athletics pie.

Trinity Thomas one of first NCAA athletes to get offer after new NIL policy approved

In fact, a local product, former West York High School athlete Trinity Thomas, quickly received an NIL offer. Thomas is standout gymnast for the Florida Gators. All we can say is good for her. She deserves it.

A work in progress: That’s not to say, however, that everything is perfect under the new landscape. It’s definitely a work in progress.

The various state laws take precedence over the interim policy adopted by the NCAA. Depending on the wording of the various state laws, some schools in some states will enjoy a competitive advantage in recruiting the top athletes.

That needs to change. A federal law needs to be passed so that all of the schools will operate on a level playing field.

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That will also make life infinitely easier on the NCAA and the universities in implementing and enforcing NIL policies.

Competitive balance concerns: There are also concerns that the new NIL policy will create even more competitive imbalance, especially in football, the sport that is the biggest cash cow in college athletics. Because of that status, football has outsized importance in this debate.

Well, given the recent dominance of Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State in the College Football Playoff, it’s difficult to imagine how that sport could become any more unbalanced.

PSU embraces change: Penn State would love to join that trio among the college football elite. To that end, Penn State seems to be embracing the new environment.

Last Thursday afternoon, the day after the Pennsylvania NIL law was passed, Penn State announced its own STATEment program, which is designed to prepare student-athletes for the new NIL landscape and help them understand and grow their personal brands.

PSU obviously was ready for the change and is hoping to take advantage of it. We applaud the school for that. It’s better to welcome change, rather than fight it.

Allowing individual athletes to earn NIL income seems like a better option than having schools directly pay athletes. If that were to happen, top athletes in the high-profile sports (football and men’s basketball) would likely get rewarded handsomely, but the money they earned would likely result in fewer scholarship opportunities in lower-profile sports.

Hopefully, over the weeks, months and years to come, some tweaks will be made to even the NIL playing field.

At least now, however, we are no longer arguing about the validity of allowing athletes to earn NIL compensation.

Now, we just need to figure out the best way to navigate the brave, new NIL world.