by A.J. Moore
It used to be in college athletics that the most recognized three letter acronyms were those like PPG (points per game), ERA (earned run average) and SOG (shots on goal). Add a new one to this list — NIL (name, image and likeness).
New NCAA legislation, rightfully so, allows college athletes to be compensated for their work away from the game via endorsements, commercial association and sales of their autograph or memorabilia.
The era of the professionalization of college athletics is upon us.
Rather than bemoan the movement because it goes against long-standing “amateur” tradition, college sports fans are better served by adjusting to the new landscape — one that features college athletes coming and going on different rosters almost as regularly as those in the professional ranks.
This new college landscape is centered around the transfer portal, basically a de facto form of free agency. Since student-athletes can capitalize on NIL deals, and those may be more advantageous on other campuses, expect them to leave their current schools unlike ever before.
If you think it is happening a lot now, it is only going to escalate.
The free agency birth in sports from the mid-1970s that led Catfish Hunter to leave Oakland for New York eventually found its way to other major sports leagues in the ensuing years. Inevitably it would come to the college ranks.
Well, it’s here, brought on by the massive amount of money pouring into the power conferences, the rise in overall media coverage of college football and basketball, the influential O’Bannon v. NCAA court case, and the scrutiny over the relative hypocritical moves made by a number of coaches and athletic directors who left their schools under contract for greener pastures.
So now college athletes have more freedom of movement and the ability to receive compensation for their name, image and likeness.
That means the days of a program and its fans hitching all their support behind a freshman sensation like a Patrick Ewing or Ralph Sampson won’t return. Not just in basketball or football, but in any sport.
We now must view players and think about their status much differently. Those like quarterback Caleb Williams following his coach from Oklahoma to USC or Oscar Tshiebwe bolting from major West Virginia to even more major Kentucky will be the norm.
Those college athletes who stay at one school for four years? Soon they will be the unique cases to point out.
Just as the NCAA has evolved as a business over the past few decades, college sports fans must evolve as well.
Associate Professor of Journalism A.J. Moore is the director of Rider’s program in sports media.