Opening the Barn Door … “Come On Down!”

Lyn Scarbrough

November 05, 2019 at 1:11 pm.

“Let’s Make a Deal” is a long-running television game show originally hosted by Monty Hall, more recently by comedian Wayne Brady.

In case you haven’t watched it, here’s the concept:

Contestants can choose one of three doors. Behind each door is something of value, a prize or a cash amount. Each player’s goal is to select the door hiding the highest value. That is the sole criteria in making the decision. The one that ends up with the greatest riches is declared the big winner. But, sometimes the chosen door ends up not being valuable at all.

I thought about Monty Hall last week as news broke of the NCAA Board of Governors decision to allow student athletes to be compensated for the use of their likeness or for endorsements. This followed Gavin Newsom, the governor of California, signing into law state legislation that will allow student athletes to hire agents and strike individual endorsement deals.

Details of the new compensation opportunity haven’t been announced yet. In fact, they haven’t been determined. That’s supposed to happen before mid-2020 and probably wouldn’t go into effect before 2021.

As generally reported, student athletes will be able to receive financial compensation when their images are used to benefit their university. It will also be permissible for them to be offered payments for endorsing products and services, which could include corporate sponsors of their university’s athletic program.

I’ve always considered myself a “player’s person,” wanting what’s in their best interest, recognizing the value that their talents and sacrifice bring to their colleges, looking after their safety, while providing fairness and equal opportunity for every student athlete.

Student athletes should be compensated, as long as it is in a way which leaves a level playing field for every college and for every player. There are ways that can be accomplished. But, not if the college decision is based primarily on which door … excuse me, which college … will provide the greatest riches.

For many reasons, it is not a good idea for financial rewards to determine where student athletes decide to attend college and how those athletes and their teammates are treated, often unequally.

If that becomes the case, forget “Let’s Make a Deal.”

We’ll need to go with “The Price is Right” since that’s what would really be happening. I’ll play for your team, or stay with your team, if “the price is right.”

Can’t you just hear it now, Bob Barker on stage with open arms as Don Pardo calls out, “Hey, big time quarterback … COME ON DOWN!”

When they pull back the curtain, maybe Cuba Gooding, Jr. will be standing there telling Tom Cruise to “show me the money!”

Is this what college sports really needs?

Is this the future for amateur athletics in the United States, or maybe more accurately, is it the beginning of the end for amateur athletics in this country?

According to the Merriam-Webster web site, an amateur is “one who engages in a pursuit, study, science or sport as a pastime rather than as a profession.”

As it pertains to sports, the web site says an amateur is about “not so much a lack of skill, but avoidance of direct remuneration.”

There it is. You decide what constitutes an amateur and what long-term damage this new proposal could do.

Reminds me of the old country saying: “It’s hard to get the cows back in when you’ve opened the barn door.”

Critics fear that NCAA rule-makers are getting ready to blow the doors right off the hinges and that it may be impossible to ever return the cattle to the barn.

I agree with that opinion.

Regardless of what the specifics of the new arrangement turn out to be, the basic nature of college football and basketball, and possibly amateur athletics overall, will never be the same. And, from my perspective, that’s not good news.

Consider the financial implications.

How will monetary compensation be determined? Who will negotiate the deals between the players … and the payers? Will it the athletic departments, the players and their families? Will all college student athletes have agents?

How will the recruiting of players from high schools and junior colleges be impacted? Making a legal pitch to prep football players has always been “come to our school because of our academics, our campus, our location, our good-looking coeds.” Will it now be “come here because we can guarantee you more money?”

Graduate transfers and the transfer portal has already had major unforeseen consequences for teams around the country. Will that increase even more and will the main reason for that choice become how much money can be given by a new team?

How about team morale, camaraderie, unity? When the heralded skill player in football is receiving thousands of dollars while the obscure left guard who protects and blocks for him receives nothing, what affect will that have? When the all-star power forward can afford a car while the third guy off the bench is still walking across campus, how will that impact attitudes?

How about fairness? Is the objective still to create a level playing field for all NCAA teams? Do all programs have the same number of billionaire supporters that can bankroll the new opportunities?

Has it ever been a case that the introduction of money to a situation increased the potential for fraud, crime, unethical practices, especially when it comes to sports?

There’s more, but you get the picture. That’s just some of the potential negative fallout that could be caused according to how the final details of the concept are finalized.

It is reasonable to initiate rules that would equitably, legally, openly compensate student athletes for benefits that they bring to their university and athletic program. But, that can be achieved without irreparably changing the nature of college sports and amateur athletics.

Ron from Ruston, La., a listener to the Nick Brown Show and to the Lindy’s Football Report radio network, sent his input in a text message a few days ago. He explained his objections and outlined a plan. Here’s what he said:

“Paying athletes for endorsements is a BAD idea. Will create worst possible corruption. For example, imagine $100K endorsements from NIKE if signing with Oregon or even at smaller schools, a rich booster could pay $50K for use of the likeness for a car dealership. This will become part of the recruiting process.

 “Give a small stipend and allow players to have offseason jobs at true local market rate and subject to audit review. But selling likeness will be a disaster. Hard to believe this is even considered by anyone with any common sense and understanding of the issues already faced due to illegal payments.”

Hopefully, during the next few months, the decision makers will carefully consider every aspect of this idea, not just the short-term benefits to select student athletes, but also the long-term negative impact likely on college sports and amateur athletics. It’s still not too late to do this the right way.

Hopefully, they will listen carefully to Ron from Ruston.

On this subject, he seems to make more sense that Monty Hall, Bob Barker, Gavin Newsom or the NCAA Board of Governors.