By JOSH SCHWARZ
Johnny Manziel elevated the debate over whether college athletes should be paid from a sports affair to a mainstream issue over the last few weeks.
The Texas A&M quarterback and reigning Heisman Trophy winner was under investigation by the NCAA for allegedly violating bylaw 126.96.36.199, which forbids any player from using his or her name or picture to advertise, recommend, or promote directly the use of a commercial product or service of any kind. On Aug. 28, The NCAA suspended ‘Johnny Football’ for the first half of Texas A&M’s opening game against Rice. The decision raised many questions about not only the consistency of NCAA punishment, but also the rule against collegiate athlete compensation in the first place.
“To me, the rule is unreasonable,” said Mike Nweme, a basketball player for the Ramapo College of New Jersey. “All it does is prevent players from getting what they deserve.”
According to the NCAA, the average annual revenue for a Division I football team is almost $16 million.
As of May 2012, 47.9 million people attend college football games each year to watch these athletes. The NCAA totals $10.6 billion a year in revenue from ticket sales and rights agreements, according to its statistical breakdown. Zero percent of this income goes to the athletes.
Nweme explained there is a risk in being an unpaid college athlete.
“Athletes at this level work their entire lives, day in and day out, to improve their game and their conditioning,” he said. “If these guys suffer a bad injury before they get to the pros, it’s all over for them without any money to fall back on.”
These issues have been debated over and over again, but it has taken the polarizing figure of Manziel for the argument to get where it’s never been before.
One September 2013 issue of the coveted TIME Magazine features Manziel on the cover. He is striking the famous Heisman pose next to the words, ‘It’s time to pay college athletes’.
To put this into perspective, you have to go back 47 years to find a college football player on the cover of TIME, according to Bleacher Report.
The Manziel scandal also took the issue to new heights by catching the attention of professional football players. It is rare that star players at the highest level concern themselves with issues that no longer directly affect them, but this is no longer the case.
Adrian Peterson, last year’s NFL MVP, voiced his opinion during the NCAA’s investigation of Manziel.
“That’s crazy to me that it’s not allowed,” the Minnesota Vikings running back told TIME Magazine. “Actors, actresses- these people can sign things and get paid for it. How come a kid that’s at a high level, that’s going to be offered a big amount of money, can’t sit down and be like, damn this is my decision?”
Dallas Cowboys superstar wide receiver Dez Bryant had his own issues with the NCAA when they suspended him before his junior year at Oklahoma State for a related violation.
Bryant recently expressed his frustration with the NCAA and their punishment protocol.
“Hell yeah I’ll be mad,” Bryant told the Star-Telegram when asked if he would be mad if Manziel was not suspended. “I will be mad. But I don’t want him to get suspended. I will be mad more at the NCAA on how they do things. I just feel like it’s not fair. This is something I have no problem talking about because I feel like somebody needs to say something to him and let it be known how they treat people is not right.”
Manziel served his half-game suspension in the first half of Texas A&M’s opener against Rice, then threw three touchdowns in the second half to lead his team to a 52-31 win.
This chapter of the debate over the NCAA rules and protocol came to an end, but the issue in the long-term is far from resolved.