As Adidas director of global sports marketing Jim Gatto was being escorted into FBI custody in handcuffs while the termination papers for Louisville University’s men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino were being filed, the blind hope of the Cardinal’s program and the NCAA was that this bribery scandal was just one of the fleeting isolated incidents taking place under their watch. By the letter of the law, Gatto planning to pay potential recruits to attend Adidas affiliated universities and then sign subsequent agreements with the company once they achieved professional status is indeed an infraction. The feeling behind this is that Gatto was attempting to capitalize on the recruits limitless earning potential with a set investment meant to lure the athletes in.
The irony in the NCAA taking issue with Gatto’s actions is that they are eerily similar to their own. Where Gatto used cash, the NCAA simply dropped scholarships in its place. From there the intentions paralleled, with the NCAA also capitalizing on the athlete’s earning power while in school and moving forward. Athletes names and likenesses simply don’t disappear from university advertisements once they make known their intentions to play professionally and while there are likely a few signed pieces of paper in existence that makes all of this legal, the NCAA’s reminder to Adidas that they deem anything they can’t profit from illegal doesn’t exactly do the most to inspire confidence.
With the countervailing argument of paying players still unresolved, many believe this is the heart of the issue at hand. In our capitalist society, on the surface it sounds perfectly sensible to have players profiting from their own talent. However certain pitfalls have been preventing this idea from reaching fruition.
Would all students-athletes be able to withstand taxation of their newfound income? Is there realistically a fair pay scale that accommodates all student athletes? Would an education remain a financial priority with scholarships out of the picture? Are the funds universities are spending being taken into equal consideration as the funds they are taking in?
Ultimately the NCAA is not in the business of spending money for someone else’s gain, especially being a non for profit organization. While student-athletes being compensated for their performance isn’t the most outlandish idea, we are still quite a distance from that reality.