Player Compensation a Hot Topic
By Rob Ogden
One name mentioned repeatedly at Big Ten Media Days last week was that of someone who has no relation to the Big Ten, or even college football in general.
Ed O’Bannon, a former UCLA basketball player who filed a lawsuit against the NCAA, Electronic Arts, and the Collegiate Licensing Company, claims the companies used his name, image and likeness in video games, photographs, apparel and other material without proper remuneration.
Player compensation has long been a hot-button issue in college athletics, but with O’Bannon’s case set to go to trial July of 2014, it has never been more relevant.
Although there is no clear solution, Ohio State’s Christian Bryant made it clear where he stands on the issue.
“I think we should get paid,” the senior safety said. “We're the ones out there each and every week. We're the ones putting in the work. We still have to go to school also and keep up our class schedule and our practice schedule. It’s demanding trying to juggle our schedule.”
When asked how much he thought players should receive, Bryant said “three to five thousand dollars a year.”
“Once a player moves off campus it's hard to pay all the bills,” he said. “If you don't have the luxury of having your parents help you it's hard.”
Quarterback Braxton Miller agreed with his teammate, and even took it a step further, saying he would like to get a cut of the No. 5 jersey sales.
“It reminds me of Chris Webber and all those guys who were mad when their jersey was getting sold and they weren't getting any type of money from it,” Miller said. “An extra $100 in the pocket would help to go get some food, take the lady out to eat, take the o-linemen out if we have a good game.”
In order to distance itself from the lawsuit, the NCAA recently chose not to renew its licensing agreement with EA Sports once it expires in June of 2014. As a result, NCAA 14 will be the last game in the series. Though it’s possible EA will continue to make the game without any NCAA branding.
The popular video game company took a hit on Wednesday when a circuit court of appeals rejected EA’s claim that its use of players’ likenesses in its games is protected by the First Amendment. This decision, in a lawsuit filed by former Nebraska and Arizona State quarterback Sam Keller, could pave the way for other athletes to sue EA.
However not every athlete is inclined to do so. Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner took a different stance on the issue.
“Someone would have to find a way to adequately compensate everyone, and I feel like that’s going to be really hard to do, so I’m gonna be long gone before they figure something out,” Gardner said. “If they were to figure it out now, we'd get more money, but I don’t feel like I have anything to do with it. I just want to play football.”
Two current Big Ten players, Minnesota’s Victor Keise and Moses Alipate, were recently added as plaintiffs in O’Bannon’s lawsuit.
Gardner, however, wants no part of it.
“I enjoy seeing the video game,” he said. “I heard they might take it away if people keep complaining so I’m just gonna have to ask them to stop, because I like seeing myself in the game.
“That’s your one dream as a kid, to be on the video game, and now I'm a starter and an impact player so if they were to stop making the game now, that would be very frustrating for me.”
Although Miller was in favor of player compensation, he said he also enjoys the video game. He has just one complaint.
“My speed is terrible, it’s like an 89. I feel like it should be a 97 or a 98,” he joked. “I’m the second fastest on the team behind (cornerback Bradley) Roby.”
Unfortunately for the NCAA, video games aren’t the only issue on the table. Game day, merchandise and broadcast-based revenue could come into play while the NCAA tries to defend its concept of amateurism
“They’re making all that money on those games on Saturday,” Miller said. “I’m know they’ve got some of that concession stand money they could loan off to us. We’re doing all that work. A couple hundred dollars would be alright.”
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