John Calipari Says Players Should Earn Income Off Their Likeness

There’s been a lot of the same question over the last couple of weeks as the NCAA got hit with the FBI scandal. How can we ‘fix’ college basketball? How do you properly pay these players? Is a scholarship enough form of payment? How can this be done from a legal standpoint?

The truth is, the way this story broke is the only shocking thing. Anyone that’s been around college basketball will tell you, it’s no surprise that there were bidding wars, shoe companies pushing players to certain teams and coaches taking a cut of some money. The only shocking thing was seeing the letters FBI involved with all of this. It’s not even shocking in the lightest that we found out agents are connected to AAU programs and coaching staffs. It’s all part of the game.

So what can be done to ‘fix’ this so it’s regulated properly? Kentucky head coach John Calipari told Jon Rothstein the following:

“Players should be allowed representation just like they have in baseball. Players should be able to earn income because of their name, their signature, and their likeness. If a uniform is sold with a player’s name on it, the player should get a percentage on it. If they want to go out and sign autographs, let them sign autographs. The money should be deferred. They should be able to sign a shoe contract too, but the money should be deferred unless it’s used by the parents of the player for transportation or expenses to come and see the kid’s play. They’re not professionals if that happens and it probably eliminates a lot of stuff.”

I agree with everything there. When you see the numbers involved with these programs and coaches, it seems crazy that the players don’t even get a cut. Yes, getting the free education is awesome. There’s no denying that. However, they are bringing in money, so you can’t compare them to the regular student. A good handful of regular students are there because of success of athletics. You hear about that all the time. The moment a team has a big run in the NCAA Tournament or seasons of success, the number of applications go up the following year.

Why are we trying to hold on to this ‘pureness’ of college athletics? It’s a business like anything else. Also, these kids don’t necessarily have it as fair as others due to having to do something for a year before they go to the NBA Draft. Yes, they can play in the G-League or overseas, but is that the same? How many people actually want to live overseas as an 18-year old?

There are ways to do this too. Teams can sell jerseys without a number of a player on a team. For instance if Duke sold ’32’ this year, that money would go to Laettner. If it’s truly a brand and not the player as people who are anti-paying players for their likeness yell about, this is one way around it. Same for autographs. Let them go make money by going to a local store and getting paid for autographs. Either people will show up to pay money or not. There’s no harm there.

A guy who I really respect in Rob Dauster from NBC Sports makes a good point with this quote here:

I say all that to say this: The only way to truly eliminate the corruption in college basketball is to legalize the corruption.

Get rid of amateurism. Allow the athletes to profit off of their name and their image and their likeness. Let them sign with an agent. Let them be sponsored by the shoe companies. Let them get paid to sign autographs or have a local restaurant put their face on a billboard. Let a booster use the star point guard to help him sell cars.

That’s all the truth. If the players are getting extra money or a sponsorship are we really not going to pay attention? Are you still not going to eat 100 wings and drink 100 beers during the first two days of the NCAA Tournament? No. It’s still going to be the same, it’s just going to be out in the open. I see no problem with that as we all had a scientific guess that this is already going on.

There will still be awesome stories even if this does happen and become open. There will still be a Steph Curry who blows up out of nowhere or a VCU run to the Final Four. In fact, you’d probably see more people cheering for the underdogs as teams like Kentucky, Duke, Arizona, UNC, Kansas, etc would become even bigger heels. I’d venture to say there’s be even more interest to see what people perceive as true amateurs try to beat these paid college players.

So again, I ask you. Why not let the kids make some extra money off their likeness? Would you still be interested if players can do this with autograph sessions, have representation or make money off their jerseys? If not, what’s your reasoning? Let me know @barstoolreags.