Drew is seeing the effects of the National Collegiate Athletic Association deal allowing student-athletes to profit off their names and images.
Students like Shiv Bhaskar, a first-year member of the Drew Rangers Men’s Golf Team, has a deal with golf apparel company Rhoback under the NCAA’s “Name, Image, Likeness” (NIL) agreement approved in 2021.
“I am a big fan of NIL deals. As a college athlete, it is good to know that my hard work and dedication have benefits. NIL deals motivate me to work harder and strive for excellence,” Bhaskar said.
However, NIL has some clear drawbacks. Both the concept and its effectiveness are based on athletes’ ability to market themselves. NIL becomes more of a popularity contest among athletes rather than a fair way to ensure athletes are compensated for their efforts.
In football terms, a star quarterback of a Big Ten team could make millions of dollars profiting from their name, image and likeness, but the kicker who attends all the same practices, team meetings, lifting sessions and works to compete at the highest level of college sports will not see anywhere near the same level of profit for his effort.
The conversation about paying student-athletes is a debate as old as college sports themselves. Since its origin in 1906, the National Collegiate Athletic Association has stood firm against paying their athletes, citing two significant reasons: fans would lose interest and the “integrity of the sport” would be lost.
In a debate that spans from family dinner table discussions to even the Supreme Court, each side holds strong, opposing views over whether or not athletes deserve to be compensated for their efforts. Regardless of stance, the impact student-athletes have their respective teams and their schools’ brand is undeniable and immeasurable.
After decades of dispute, a compromise in the form of NIL was reached in June 2021. Schools and the NCAA did not have to directly pay their players, but they could no longer block student-athletes’ ability to profit off their own name, image or likeness.
Bhaskar’s message is echoed by former, current and prospective college athletes alike. Throughout the nation many cite the lack of freedom for young people pouring hours into perfecting their craft with the goal of representing their school proudly.
In accordance with Bhaskar’s point, balancing a job with being an athlete, particularly an in-season athlete, is near impossible given time constraints as well as the physical and mental energy spent on sports and schoolwork. NIL allows students to find sponsors and make passive income, requiring very minimal effort on the part of the students with the exception of momentarily interacting with their sponsors.
However, what was pitched to the masses as a perfect middle ground for an age-old conflict still proves to be an imperfect, deeply flawed system. Nearly all college athletes, regardless of level, do not have their own agent or anyone but their close friends and family to trust with decisions concerning their financial future. Popularity and the ability to be outgoing and personable lead to success for a select few.
Although some may argue these disparities can be attributed to positional value and the fact that certain college athletes are more “celebrity-like” than others and deserve to be paid accordingly, it presents a disadvantage to athletes who do not enjoy the same recognition from their name alone.
NIL deals place more of an emphasis on aspects such as an athlete’s social media following or marketability rather than reflecting the time and effort they put into their sport. Advocates for the payment of student-athletes have long argued that they deserve compensation due to their limitless commitment to excellence on the field and in the classroom. This effort, combined with their limited time to find other avenues of income, led the charge for the movement to pay student-athletes.
Popularity and fame were certainly part of the argument but never the leading factors behind it. The NCAA’s solution has proven to tackle only this sector of the problem, neglecting the other reasons which make all college athletes deserving of fair pay.
The ripple effect of NIL extends beyond the individual athletes’ perspectives as well. In the past, prospective college athletes made their college decisions based on the college itself. Whether it be the school’s top-notch facilities, opportunities on and off the field or amiable coaching staff, recruits around the country were influenced by facets of the universities themselves.
In the post-NIL world, however, the disparity between top rate schools and the rest of the field has never been wider. Matt Myers (‘25), infielder for the Drew Rangers baseball team, emphasized this point, saying “there has to be a salary cap for NIL deals as these deals are causing a few major colleges to control all the top rated high school prospects.”
Parity in the NCAA has never been as minimal as it is today, and the introduction of sponsorship deals for college athletes to make a comfortable living is only exacerbating this growing problem.
While athletes are undoubtedly looking forward to exploring the possibilities within the limits of NIL, the other side of the issue demonstrates the many flaws associated with the NCAA’s attempted compromise. Uneven opportunities and an increasing rift between the NCAA’s top teams and the rest of the schools in terms of recruiting further prove the notion that NIL brings with it both detriments and progress.
Regardless of stance over one of the most controversial decisions in the recent history of sports policy, NIL represents the modern day climate of collegiate sports and its force is here to stay. Its long-term impact, whether beneficial or harmful, still remains to be seen.
Devan is a first-year majoring in biochemistry and minoring in public health.