I’m not much of a swimmer, and drowning ranks extremely high on the list of ways I do not want to die.
That explains the sense of dread that gripped me on the first day of our honeymoon as my wife I prepared to snorkel in the ocean off the coast of Maui.
Everyone on the charter boat had already jumped in with their flippers and mask. My wife beckoned to me from the water. I, however, stood frozen on the platform at the bottom of the steps, staring into the cold, terrifying abyss.
Cognitively, I knew I had to do it, because I didn’t want to ruin our first big adventure as a couple. I didn’t want my wife to think she’d married a wimp. And I knew I wouldn’t drown, given that I was wearing a life jacket and clutching a boogie board on which to float.
But jumping into that ocean was the ultimate, I’m-only-doing-this-because-I-have-no-choice moment of my life.
I flashed back to that Wednesday during the NCAA’s press conference detailing how it will permit college athletes to be compensated by outside entities for the use of their name, image and likeness.
These guys would almost rather jump in a tub filled with boiling oil and ravenous sharks than allow what they’re allowing. The only reason they’re doing it — no matter what they say — is because they must.
They’ve lost the public relations battle over continuing to make tens of millions on non-profit (wink-wink) enterprises while the athletes funding the machine get an education and modest stipend in return.
We’re headed — ponderously, since the NCAA won’t vote on these recommendations for eight more months — for a day when an Ohio State football player can do commercials for a local car dealer, restaurant, plumber, etc. and pocket the cash.
If you’re thinking, “That sounds like a major NCAA violation,” then you understand why the pooh-bahs who run college athletics see shark-infested waters where others see gorgeous coral reefs.
College presidents, conference commissioners and college athletic directors don’t know what’s below the surface of this new world, hard though they’re trying to predict and control it to preserve “competitive balance.”
You and I know that phrase is laughable. There is no genuine competitive balance when Ohio State’s annual athletic department revenue is north of $200 million, or about twice the amount at Purdue, Northwestern and Rutgers.
Those schools, and most others in the 14-team Big Ten, may be the same conference as the Buckeyes competitively, but they are not in the same league financially.
So it’s really the illusion of competitive balance the bosses are trying to protect.
But name, image and likeness compensation is going to obliterate that illusion.
Get used to seeing the acronym, NIL, to represent the concept. That figures, because the chance this will have no impact on the already-rich getting much richer down the road is exactly that — nil.
Where will you find a bigger available pool of advertisers willing to hire players as spokesmen…in Columbus or in West Lafayette, Ind.?
Which school has more players advertisers would want to hire as spokesmen…Ohio State or Rutgers?
Knowing he’ll more easily find an advertiser to hire him and get paid more for his endorsement, is an athlete likelier to sign with the Buckeyes or Northwestern?
Of course, Northwestern isn’t the competition for the sort of player Ohio State recruits to play football. OSU battles Alabama, Texas or Clemson for that sort of of five-star talent.
What do you think that will do to the price of that player’s NIL price on the open market, vs. what a three-star recruit might fetch at Purdue?
We haven’t even yet projected what will happen when the NCAA soon approves a one-time, immediate-eligibility waiver for athletes that will allow a player from, say, Maryland to transfer to, say, Ohio State to fill a roster spot where the Buckeyes suddenly find themselves lacking or depleted.
Can you say, bidding war? If you don’t like the sound of that, try, free agency.
Now you know why school presidents and ADs are quivering as they make these concessions and nervously wait for the monster to reveal himself.
Come on in, fellas. The water’s fine.