'We deserve it': Local players, coaches applaud NCAA push for off-field athlete income

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

The NCAA has taken a significant step toward allowing college athletes to make money on their name, image and likeness, and locally, from college football players to coaches and athletic directors, the news has been well-received.

Now it’s up to the NCAA to determine how athletes can profit. The NCAA Board of Governors on Tuesday voted to permit athletes to make income off their notoriety, and all three college athletics divisions must work to create new rules by January 2021.

Lavert Hill

This decision was made a month after California passed a law that would make it illegal for NCAA schools to prohibit college athletes from making money on endorsements and autograph signings, among a number of ways athletes could profit.

Michigan senior football player Lavert Hill, a Detroit native who attended Martin Luther King High, will be out of the college game when this could take effect, but he applauded the efforts by the NCAA.

“It’s good for everybody else,” Hill said Tuesday night after practice. “I’m glad the NCAA is doing that. We deserve it, I guess. We go out there, we work hard, we practice every day, we deserve a little something.

“Everybody is getting richer. We need a piece of the pie too, I guess.”

Michigan State basketball player Cassius Winston agreed.

"I’m not against it," Winston said Tuesday night, after the Spartans' exhibition win over Albion. "If anybody can get paid and get some more money I would never turn it down. My mom told me if somebody offers you money you don’t turn it down. You got to take that. I feel like there’s gonna be a lot of differences, going to be a lot of changes, going to be a lot of adjustments. At the end of the day it can be a good thing."

Several NCAA administrators have been exploring since this spring how athletes could receive compensation for use of their names, images and likenesses, according to an Associated Press report Tuesday. The group was led by Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith and Big East commissioner Val Ackerman, and they presented their report to the Board of Governors.

Among the next steps is to determine, for example, what types of endorsement deals athletes can profit from and what regulations should be set.

Eastern Michigan football coach Chris Creighton said he has no issue with the NCAA decision.

Chris Creighton

“You hope guys play because they love the game, that coaches coach because they love the game,” Creighton said. “But if guys can make some extra money because people are excited about who they are, I don’t have an issue with that."

Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel wanted to study the NCAA decision and go over it with his staff before commenting. Michigan State athletic director Bill Beekman said as the conversation continues regarding the next steps, he will be able to better formulate what this will mean for college athletics.

“As this national conversation evolves we will better understand the impact of the NCAA Board of Governors’ recommendations on the welfare of our student-athletes," Beekman said in a statement. "In the coming months, the principles and guidelines will be interpreted and we will have a better opportunity to understand the implications of today’s announcement.”

Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo is generally in favor of players earning off-field income but admits he has no idea what the final framework will look like.

“I've always been supportive of players getting more that they can get,” Izzo said. “I think with today's announcement they set some guidelines that will help shape it. But I don't really know what those are going to be and how they're going to be implemented.

“But players getting what they can get – that’s good. But it still has to work within the framework of how we help maintain the student-athlete experience. And there's so many things out there that I think are unintended consequences.

“I just hope we don’t act like there's no value to the education because there is a value, both a monetary value and a lifetime value.”

Eastern Michigan basketball coach Rob Murphy, formerly a long-time assistant at Syracuse, said whether this will wind up being a good thing for the athletes and college athletics will depend on how it’s regulated.

“I don’t believe this will have a huge effect on mid-major-and-below programs,” Murphy said. “It opens up a bidding war at the BCS level, which can cause several problems that many are not thinking about in the big picture.

“The landscape has changed drastically on what players receive today at all levels on the basketball side. The cost of attendance check and if your player qualifies for Pell (grant), he can receive about $2,000 a month, which is very good extra money for a student-athlete. You add the team and occasional meals and snacks – it’s more than most have ever been accustomed to at our level. Our players at EMU are extremely happy with what they get and have now and how they live.”

The focus has long been on how this affects college football and basketball. But non-revenue generating sports could be affected, as well. Michigan hockey coach Mel Pearson said he isn’t sure what bearing this will have on college hockey.

“It will be interesting,” Pearson said. “It’s an interesting time we live in. Really, we have to see what the NCAA intends to do with this, so it’s really hard to guess what’s going to happen and how it’s going to affect not only our sport, but the University of Michigan.”

Former Michigan football player Chris Wormley, now in his third season in the NFL, recently told The Detroit News he was a vocal supporter of student-athletes’ rights, including being compensated for name, image and likeness, especially after seeing the millions that conferences and schools receive from television contracts.

“You see the conferences and the NCAA making million of dollars, billions of dollars at the highest levels,” Wormley said. “It’s becoming more and more of a business. These kids are being exploited for millions of dollars and they’re not seeing any of the money coming into them, and it’s frustrating to see.

“If the player has power, that’s always a good thing. Even back in 2016 when some of this stuff was being talked about at the base level, people want to be compensated for what they feel is right. There are times in the summer I had to try to get a job at Gatorade camps to get extra money. A lot of times I was struggling and my teammates were struggling to pay rent, and we’re supposed to be these top-tier athletes.”

Chris Wormley

Michigan running back Tru Wilson, a former walk-on, said he’s given this issue some thought.

“It’s interesting to think about what I could be doing with more money around,” Wilson said. “For the guys that are going to be coming to college in a year from now or whatever it is, good on them. It’s going to be interesting to see how much they would make. It would be really cool to see.”

Wilson was asked if he feels strongly about athletes being able to capitalize on their likenesses.

“I look at it like, I came here as a walk-on, not getting paid or anything, so it would be cool,” Wilson said. “Just being on scholarship and receiving a stipend to pay my rent, I’m so thankful for, but yeah, never content, always trying to make more money.”

Michigan linebacker Jordan Glasgow found it difficult weigh in on the subject because it’s still in the early stages.

“It’s pretty ambiguous what they mean by ‘profit off their likeness,’” Glasgow said. “There are a lot of details we don’t know, so it’s difficult to comment how that would affect players going forward.”

Luke Schoonmaker, a Michigan tight end, said he agreed with Hill’s comment about earning a piece of the financial pie.

“Just that the amount of time and work we put it and how big the football industry is and how much it’s increasing, give back to us a little bit,” Schoonmaker said Tuesday night. “We’re the ones kinda making it happen.”

Detroit News Staff Writers David Goricki and Matt Charboneau contributed.