Andy Hodges

Two big issues could change college sports in dramatic, ugly fashion

Combine making it legal for players to leave colleges when they want and paying them, well, it’s a recipe that could lead to dramatic and ugly chaos.

When the NCAA holds its annual convention in April, the questions getting the most publicity are a one-time transfer rule and compensating players above and beyond what they get now.

Either one by itself could be workable, but the combination of the two may makes for an interesting dynamic that would change things dramatically and maybe in an ugly way.

Former Georgia coach Mark Richt weighed in on the Twitter thing with maybe the most accurate description of what to expect in the biggest sports:

“I know, I have an idea. You recruit and develop players and when I think they’re good enough I will poach them from your roster! Welcome to what the new normal will look like in college football!”

Let me sum it up for you simply by saying the rich will get richer and the poor, well, they’ll need a combination of luck, more money and more money than that.

Welcome to free agency in college athletics.

The idea of something approaching a direct salary for college athletes will never work out to an amount of anything significant. It’s basic math. That’s because the athletic departments at most schools don’t have the same money to work with.

SEC schools have more than the Big 12 or Pac 12 and they ALL have more than non-Power 5 schools. That’s the rub. What do you do with the schools that aren’t in one of the big boy conferences.

What that means, quite simply, is somehow the folks in Fayetteville can only pay the players the same amount as the ones in Pine Bluff or Little Rock. Yes, Arkansas State, UALR, UAPB and UCA have a vote equivalent to the UA at the NCAA meetings.

Forget about percentage. The private schools are never going to release that number and the bigger schools will be paying so much the best players will have to take a pay cut to play professionally.

The NCAA rules are made to the lowest-common denominator. Figuring out all the economics of this will make bean counters the most important people in college athletics.

Paying players for their name, likeness and image might be more interesting. If you think there’s a ton of money to be made from apparel sales, no college makes enough profit off the jerseys for the player’s cut to amount to a whole lot (they get a royalty from the retail outlets that’s not exactly a big percentage).

In effect, if they’re lucky they’ll get 10 percent of 10 percent of that jersey you paid $100 for with a player’s name on the back. About $1 per jersey, in other words.

Throw in the drama associated with the biggest names getting thousands in appearance fees by a business while the others get nothing and you get all sorts of extra problems. The only reason it works in professional sports is everybody is getting something.

It’s how some pro owners get around salary caps by helping boost certain players earning potential off the field. The Dallas Cowboys were doing that for decades before Jerry Jones bought the team.

Combine free agency for players with the freedom to move from school to school and you have chaos.

But what this whole issue is going to do is open up the scenario for a breakway from the NCAA by the biggest schools. They will, sooner or later, get tired of being limited by the smaller schools.

That is why the two issues coming up in April that are getting all the discussions in February are going to likely create some changes in the world of college athletics, regardless of what is decided.

Of course, we’re assuming any of this passes.

We’re talking about a merry band of idiots with a rich history of waiting until the train gets going, then jumping under it.

Which, of course, means there’s no way to predict what will happen.

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