The call to pay college football players above and beyond what’s involved with a scholarship has been growing louder and louder, with some members of Georgia and Georgia Tech and others staging an on-field “protest” this past Saturday.
Not surprisingly, Jim Delany is very staunchly against any type of pay-for-play model for student-athletes. Somewhat surprisingly, he’s very much for another controversial avenue for players.
Speaking to ESPN.com Wednesday, the Big Ten commissioner appeared to be pushing the idea that football players, as well as those involved in basketball, be allowed to go straight from high school to the professional ranks. Currently, football players have to be three years removed from their high school graduating class before the NFL allows them to enter the draft, one year before the NBA allows the same.
“Maybe in football and basketball, it would work better if more kids had a chance to go directly into the professional ranks,” Delany said. “If they’re not comfortable and want to monetize, let the minor leagues flourish. Train at IMG, get agents to invest in your body, get agents to invest in your likeness and establish it on your own. But don’t come here and say, ‘We want to be paid $25,000 or $50,000.’ Go to the D-League and get it, go to the NBA and get it, go to the NFL and get it. Don’t ask us what we’ve been doing.
“If an athlete wants to professionalize themselves, professionalize themselves. We’ve been training kids for professional sports. I argue it’s the color, I argue it’s the institution. If you think it’s about you, then talk to John Havlicek about that, you’ve got to talk to Michael Jordan about that. These brands have been built over 100 years.”
Of course, Delany — or everyone as a whole in college sports for that matter — promoting such a tack would be a moot point without the cooperation of the NFL and/or the NBA. Delany, who’s been at the forefront of the push for significant structural changes in collegiate athletics, says the NCAA and its members need to work more closely with
It’s unclear how deep Delany’s tongue was in his cheek when making any of these “recommendations.”
“You don’t have to play for the Redskins or the Bears at 17, but you could develop IMG,” Delany said. “My gosh, there are lots of trainers out there. There are quarterback coaches teaching passing skills, guys lifting weights, guys training and running. They can get as strong and as fast in that environment as they can in this environment. Plus, they don’t have to go to school. Plus, they can sell their likeness and do whatever they want to do. We don’t want to do that. What we want to do is do what we’ve been doing for 100 years. …
“I think we ought to work awful hard with the NFL and the NBA to create an opportunity for those folks. We have it in baseball, we have it in golf, works pretty good, we have it in golf, we have it in hockey. Why don’t we have it in football, basketball? Why is it our job to be minor leagues for professional sports?”
To be honest, it’s hard to tell whether Delany is offering up a serious solution to the pay-for-play issue or if he’s merely throwing a sarcastic hissy fit like he did when threatening the Big Ten would drop sports if the O’Bannon lawsuit were to be successful.
Either way, it’s good fodder from a decidedly unexpected source on an issue that simply is not going away.