BACK IN OCTOBER, THE National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) voted unanimously to permit students participating in athletics the opportunity to benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness in a manner consistent with the collegiate model.

As usual, the devil is in the details. Allowing amateur athletes to be paid has been controversial. However, the public is now accepting the concept.

California and Missouri have been out front on this. California recently passed the Fair Pay to Play Act. That law takes effect in 2023. More than 30 states have jumped on the bandwagon and proposed similar bills. While the specifics of the NCAA plans are to be determined no later than January 2021, the NCAA task force acknowledged that political pressure pushed them to make the move.

The NCAA action covers nearly 500,000 male and female athletes in Division I, II and III. It said athletes can hire agents, sign endorsements and shoe deals, accept money for autographs and promotional work when they return to their hometowns and more. Opponents of the action are worried about the slippery slope that it will create.

The fact is the NCAA generated more than $1 billion in revenue from sports in 2019, but it didn’t share any of those dollars with student-athletes. Some states are proposing that 15% of the annual athletic department revenues be shared with the student-athletes.

The athletes are the attraction. In college, you have 20-year-olds training 40 hours a week to refine their skills. The universities fill stadiums and sports venues with paying fans and those events are broadcast by the networks generating huge amounts of money. The athletes should be entitled to profit from their names, images and likenesses.

At Louisiana State University, Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Joe Burrow’s No. 9 jersey sold thousands of units at $100 each at Christmastime, but Burrow got none of the profits. Many elite athletes could make lots of money making personal appearances or serving as motivational speakers.

A few politicians contend that athletes who cash in will be expected to report all benefits they receive including the value of their scholarships. That is income and they will be expected to pay taxes on that money. There needs to be a change on the federal level to create a single standard at all 1,000 colleges and universities.

As we grapple with the evils of money and college sports, we might try to explain how college athletes are different than student actors or musicians who are on scholarship. They often earn money away from school by performing or appearing off campus, thus cashing in on their talents.

A piano player or virtuoso violinist on a music scholarship can get paid for a nightclub gig or a performing arts major can be paid for appearing in a summer theater production, but a student-athlete might be declared ineligible if he or she gets paid for playing in a summer league.

A college athlete gets the benefit of expert coaching, a housing allowance, etc., but if an agent buys her a lunch or pays for a pizza, they may be violating the rules. The athlete’s team qualifies for a national tournament, but can’t help his family pay for traveling to see him play.

The vast majority of student athletes won’t go into professional leagues after college, so making money during their college years is their only opportunity to recover their investment in skill development. Families often make sacrifices to support their children.

As colleges build huge stadiums, training facilities with lavish accommodations, pay coaches and trainers huge salaries, it doesn’t seem right that the athletes who fill those venues are not paid, but risk physical and mental injuries. What other marketplace in the country asks their employees to work for little or no compensation while others are paid handsomely?

Some even say there’s a civil rights aspect to this issue. A high percentage of the athletes are African-American and they are being kept poor in order to enrich white athletic directors, coaches and sports company executives.

To be determined is how star athletes will be compensated as compared to the average team players. Players would not be allowed to accept money from agents for attending powerhouse schools. Yet athletes at certain sports factories are more likely to get lucrative endorsement opportunities.

Some believe in the Olympics sports model. The athletes don’t get pay for participation in competition, but are allowed to earn money outside of it. If the NCAA can negotiate for bigger broadcast rights to their games, why can’t the athletes negotiate for bigger shares of the growing pie?