SYRACUSE — Reactions to Tuesday’s announcement that the NCAA would permit athletes to profit from the use of their name, image, and likeness, ranged from euphoria to outrage across the national landscape of college sports, with Syracuse University representing many of the emotions in between.
SU Director of Athletics John Wildhack released a statement late Tuesday in support of the unanimous vote by the NCAA’s top governing board — which directed each of the NCAA’s three divisions to permit students that participate in athletics the opportunity to benefit from the use of their name, image, and likeness in a manner consistent with the collegiate model — and SU men’s basketball coach Jim Boeheim also addressed the topic along with players from the football and basketball programs.
The NCAA initiative will require each of its three divisions to determine their own rules and construct specific plans, though it will solicit feedback and make recommendations, and each is required to enact new bylaws no later than January 2021.
“As work begins on updating the relevant bylaws and policies to reflect the Board of Governors’ position, Syracuse University will continue to elevate all aspects of our student-athletes’ experience,” Wildhack stated in a press release. “This includes providing enhanced academic support, holistic health and wellness resources and integrated academic advising and career planning. These actions, and others, further position our student-athletes for success on the playing fields, in the classroom and beyond.”
New York State senator Kevin Parker proposed a bill in September that would allow student-athletes to be compensated for use of their name, which was modeled after the “Fair Pay to Play Act,” a similar legislation that unanimously passed the California state’s assembly and senate a few weeks prior.
Those actions — along with Monday’s announcement that the NFL Players Association would partner with the National College Players Association to explore compensation opportunities for college athletes — were the latest calls for change to the NCAA benefits structure.
“That’s awesome, especially for the younger guys coming up,” SU senior running back Moe Neal told WSYR-TV in Syracuse. “I’m a little upset that it’s my last year obviously, but it’s very exciting. I knew it was going to be time for a change soon.”
Jim Boeheim was asked to comment following his team’s exhibition victory over Carleton on Tuesday night, and while offering support of the concept in theory, expressed a multitude of concerns over the execution and potential pitfalls that he believes need to be addressed in the interim.
“I think I’ve always said that it’s a good idea, but it’s a bad idea if it gets to a point where people are getting 20,000 (dollars) here or 10,000 there, or if you go here you’re going to get a $40,000 commercial, because that’s what’s going to happen,” said Boeheim, entering his 44th season as head coach at his alma mater.
“I think at a big-name basketball school, I think an agent could get a player a $100,000 commercial or a $75,000 commercial, a couple of them,” he added. “Is that where we want to go? OK, that’s fine, if that’s where we want to go, that’s where we’ll go, but don’t think it’s going to be a simple thing where they can get an extra thousand here or there. It’s not going to be that way. There will be huge things happening, and I think they’re not coming out with anything because they’re going to have some kind of restrictions. They’re going to have to, and when they do that and limit what a guy can get, then there’s going to be a lawsuit.”
Boeheim also pointed to potential issues that could arise from amateur athletes on the same team receiving substantially different compensation, and how to balance benefits for different athletic programs at the same institution.
“It’s a good theory,” Boeheim added. “It’s a good political ploy, because everyone is for it. I’m for it. Who’s not for it? The players are getting something, I’m for that, but it comes back to money and all the other sports, they’re not getting anything. ... The reason this hasn’t taken place is everybody likes the idea but everybody who knows the business sees what’s coming down the road.”
Other prominent players from Orange programs, like men’s basketball star Elijah Hughes and SU football quarterback Tommy DeVito, each expressed excitement over the potential for income but down-played the significance of Tuesday’s vote. Both players also spoke highly of the current player benefits included in the meal-plan and cost-of-attendance package to go with their respective scholarships.
“I would appreciate it but I don’t think it’s something where anyone would go to a different school over it,” DeVito told reporters on Tuesday. “I don’t think it’s too big of a deal because we get enough benefits, but it would be a cool something to have.”
SU football coach Dino Babers had yet to comment publicly on the matter as of Wednesday. His regularly-scheduled weekly media appearances include a Monday morning press conference and Thursday night radio show.
Babers stated Monday that the Orange football team is likely to be without defensive tackle McKinley Williams again when it hosts Atlantic Coast Conference and former Big East foe Boston College at noon Saturday in the Carrier Dome.
Williams was expected to start at defensive tackle for SU (3-5 overall, 0-4 ACC) but has yet to suit up this season due to a lower-body injury. He would be eligible to request a medical redshirt for an extra year of eligibility if he plays in four games or less under NCAA rules, though Babers hasn’t indicated if that would be pursued.
Center Sam Heckel, who has been out since the season opener, could become eligible for a medical redshirt if he isn’t able to return for Saturday’s game. Babers declined to update his status when asked earlier this week.
Several members of the Boston College football coaching staff will experience a homecoming of sorts during Saturday’s game. BC head coach Steve Addazio worked as an SU assistant from 1995-98, while defensive ends coach Jim Reid and running backs coach Brian White are also former Orange assistants.
Reggie Terry, a former SU linebacker from 1989-93, is BC’s Assistant Athletic Director for Football Operations and Player Personnel. He also worked as an administrator in the SU athletics department from 1993-2006.