James Jones: NCAA finally wakes up to athlete compensation

Published 10:52 am Saturday, June 1, 2024

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The NCAA and the Power Five conferences quietly agreed to pay college athletes.

NCAA president Charlie Baker, commissioners of the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC all released a joint statement to the media, saying they reached a deal. The sides will pay nearly $2.8 billion to settle a host of antitrust claims, setting the stage for a groundbreaking revenue-sharing model that could start steering millions of dollars directly to athletes in 2025.

Of course, a main hurdle must be cleared. The deal still must be approved by the federal judge overseeing the case, and plaintiffs will have the opportunity to opt out or challenge terms of the agreement. If it stands, a new era in college sports begins as schools can compete for talent using direct payments. 

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For the compensation model, each school will be allowed, but not required to set aside up to $21 million in revenue to share with athletes per year. The financial amount could increase over the years.

Athletes in all sports will be eligible for payments. Schools would be given the freedom to decide how the money is split among sports programs. Scholarship limits by sport will be replaced by roster restrictions.

I am glad to see the rules of amateurism finally go away. Back in the day, I often had to chase stories where football and basketball players received money from college boosters when their vehicles broke down. The story would always dominate headlines on ESPN and the major networks.

The timing for college athlete compensation is perfect for Southside wide receiver Derick Smith, who has verbally committed to Alabama. Smith, The Selma Times-Journal football player of the year, will sign a national letter of intent in December.

While we still have obstacles to overcome, at least we’re headed in the right direction of paying college athletes.

James Jones is the managing editor of The Selma Times-Journal. He can be reached at james.jones@selmatimesjournal.com.