By Harry Allison
College sports could change more in the next six months than it has in the last 50 years.
Investors are flocking to new leagues that aim to compete with the NCAA, evidence of just how much opposition there is to the amateurism model — and how much belief there is in new ones.
Sports media startup Overtime has raised $80 million ahead of the fall launch of its basketball league, which will offer high schoolers six-figure salaries to skip college. Investors include Jeff Bezos, Drake and 25 active and former NBA players.
The Professional Collegiate League, which plans to pay college athletes, just inked a TV deal. And of course, the NBA’s G League paid top recruits upwards of $500,000 to skip college this past season.
Congress is expected to discuss a federal name, image and likeness law in the coming months, but more and more states are unwilling to wait for lawmakers — or the NCAA — to act.
Ten states have passed laws that will allow athletes to sign endorsement deals: Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey and New Mexico. 14 more have active bills.
Laws in Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Mississippi and New Mexico take effect in July. If the NCAA hopes to buy itself more time, it will need to file lawsuits in each state, notes ESPN’s Dan Murphy.
The NCAA Division I Council voted last week to grant all athletes the ability to transfer once and be immediately eligible. This will fundamentally alter the college football and basketball landscapes, where transfer rates were already skyrocketing.
While this is clearly the fair thing to do for athletes, it also creates what is essentially college sports’ version of free agency.
Major college sports are a uniquely American concept. Nowhere else in the world are elite high school athletes recruited to play for universities.