There has been a lot of media attention recently to the fact that the NCAA makes money off of merchandise that bears the names/likenesses of NCAA athletes, but the athletes themselves are not allowed to.   Proponents of the NCAA say this is essential because it maintains the integrity of the sport – otherwise boosters would have a back door way to pay athletes to go to a particular college.  Opponents of the NCAA liken it to indentured labor, and claim that it allows the NCAA to exploit and make a profit off of the athletes while maintaining a monopoly on merchandise.

So here’s an idea – continue to require that all sales of jerseys, autographs, etc. to go through the NCAA.  But for every sale of an athletes jersey/authograph/likeness hold some percentage of the profits in a trust fund for that athlete… which the athlete only receives once he/she graduates.  Because the athletes aren’t receiving money directly, boosters can’t use it as a backdoor to circumvent recruitment rules.  The NCAA would also maintain its monopoly on such merchandise.   But the players would now directly gain from the profits that they helped produce, so it would be much less exploitative.  Moreover, it would provide an incentive for players to actually finish college and graduate – possibly improving some of the dismal graduation rates for college athletes in football and basketball.

I acknowledge that this idea has some problems.  For one, there are questions about the legality.  And there would be a lot of details to work out.  But most ideas are rough in their first iteration.  It seems like a more nuanced version of this approach would be a dominant policy over the one currently in place.

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