If anyone knows the consequences of paying college athletes, it’s Reggie Bush. The former USC running back had his Heisman Trophy stripped as the Trojans were hit with massive penalties after the NCAA determined Bush and his family received nearly $300,000 in impermissible benefits.
Of course, what Bush received during his time at USC would be allowed under potential new rules from the NCAA. In April, the NCAA Board of Governors supported a working group’s proposal that would permit athletes to cash in on their names, images and likenesses. The rules are expected to be written by Oct. 31 with a vote occurring no later than Jan. 31, 2021. Name, image and likeness rights would then be in effect for the 2021-22 athletic season.
For many, the weight of the NCAA’s support was a massive step in the right direction as it’s been clear for a while that some college athletes have enough name recognition to monetize their brand.
However, Bush expressed in an interview with Playboy.com that access to a sudden surge in money isn’t necessarily a good thing. Without a proper foundation and knowledge, that kind of cash can end up doing more harm. From the interview:
They’re about to start paying college athletes. This is something that has never been experienced before, and it’s going to destroy some people if their foundation is not in the right place.
The one thing I wish I had early in my career is proper financial knowledge. I hired good agents, and I hired a good team. But I allowed that good team to make decisions for me. I’m not saying I’m going bankrupt, but if I had the proper knowledge back then, some things would be different. People just assume, ‘Well, you got all this money, so you’re good.’ It’s actually the opposite. The more money you have, the more danger you’re in. Because now you’re a freaking open target for a lot of people. It’s a nasty world out there, and it’s about to get nastier. You’re going to really start to see the true colors of a lot of people, and a lot of businesses too. You’re going to see people doing some crazy stuff to make money, because our market is crashing.
Bush’s “mo’ money, mo’ problems” point of view isn’t uncharted when discussing this topic, and there’s merit to it. But that also doesn’t mean the door to free market value for college athletes shouldn’t be opened. (And, to be clear, at no point did Bush say athletes shouldn’t be allowed to capitalize on that value.)
Entering this uncharted collegiate territory will force schools to commit more resources to make sure athletes are better prepared for a new life of money management, perhaps in the form of mandatory classes, seminars or even additional staff members akin to tutors.