By: Evan Shaub – Opinions Editor
On Oct. 9, Georgia running back Todd Gurley was suspended indefinitely after the NCAA claimed he violated their rules. The accusation alleged that Gurley had received financial compensation for memorabilia that he signed.
The fact that college athletes like Gurley are still receiving suspensions for using their own name and likeness is illogical and absurd. Coming out of high school, Gurley was ranked as the fifth best running back prospect in the nation. When he went into practice his first year he was third on the depth chart, but he climbed the rungs quickly and found himself starting as a true freshman on a team in the SEC, the powerhouse conference of the NCAA. When Gurley was active, he would walk out onto the field between the hedges at Sanford Stadium in Georgia and look up to see 92,000 fans screaming his name. These fans are wearing his jersey, ESPN is putting him in the national spotlight, Georgia is making millions off of the event and Gurley can’t receive any money for that?
Frankly, it makes no sense but let’s put this in a different perspective. The NCAA calls people like Gurley “student-athletes,” a term that is applicable for most college athletes. 99 percent of college athletes don’t generate revenue for their schools and most college athletes are happy to receive a scholarship for playing a game they love; but what does that mean for an athlete like Gurley? It means that he gets suspended for making money using his own name. How does that make sense?
Why does the NCAA care if Gurley makes money off his own name and likeness? There’s no logical answer. If a regular college student could make money by taking a picture or signing memorabilia, no one would stop them. People would praise that student for knowing how to maximize their profits, but attach the term “athlete” to that student and they’ve committed a dire crime. That college athlete has lost the one thing they’ve probably been working their whole life toward just because some higher-up at the NCAA made a rule a couple decades ago in an attempt for schools to avoid future injury-related lawsuits.
The thought by the NCAA at the time was that if an athlete is considered “amateur,” then the schools wouldn’t be liable for any injuries because those athletes aren’t employees. It was a genius marketing strategy proposed by the first president of the NCAA, Walter Byers. Since then, Byers has come out against the same policy he designed himself, stating that it exploits college athletes.
Simply put, the guy who designed the system of “amateurism” for college athletes believes it’s morally wrong. If he thinks it’s wrong, then why doesn’t the current governing body of the NCAA think it’s wrong? It’s a question without an answer.
Soon, something is going to have to change in the NCAA. These athletes cannot continue to have their names and likenesses impacted negatively just because they’re doing something perfectly legal in the eyes of the United States law.
Unfortunately for athletes like Gurley, that time won’t come soon enough.