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Expert says Ohio State is 'well positioned' in NCAA settlement to pay players

Ohio State running back TreVeyon Henderson (32) tries to jump over Notre Dame linebacker
Michael Caterina
/
AP
Ohio State running back TreVeyon Henderson (32) tries to jump over Notre Dame linebacker JD Bertrand (27) during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023, in South Bend, Ind.

In May, the NCAA and the five big power conferences agreed that college athletes should directly be paid by the universities they play for.

The multibillion-dollar settlement includes almost $2.8 billion in damages for former Division I athletes and sets up a revenue-sharing system for conferences and athletes that could go into effect as soon as the 2025 fall semester.

The deal leaves questions about scholarships, media contracts and the status of college athletes.

“We're in this sort of wild, wild west of what, what amateurism and what college athletics looks like today,” said James Strode, associate dean of undergraduate programs and Ohio University’s College of Business and former chair of the university’s department of sports administration.

Strode said the settlement will have less impact on larger schools, like Ohio State University, than it will on mid- and low-revenue schools.

“I think that, you know, places like Ohio State are going to be pretty well positioned,” Strode said.

He pointed to Ohio State’s “outstanding facilities” and popularity as marks of stability. Strode said smaller institutions with lesser facilities that will also have to “pump money” into collectives and paying athletes may struggle to remain competitive.

“I think we’re going to see a chasm open up even further between the top institutions and the next level down,” Strode said.

College athletes already have the ability to monetize their name, image, and likeness to capitalize on their success.

To also benefit from the settlement, college athletes would have to opt in. That would prevent them from suing the NCAA for future damages, but it could entitle them to a portion of about $22 million per institution.

“But when we look at where that money may go, there’s going to be questions of, you know, is it going to go to your big revenue-generating sports like football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball?” Strode said.

Strode believes some smaller schools with a focus on Olympic sports like swimming, diving or golf may choose to prioritize those athletes. Larger schools will likely put money toward star position players in football, Strode said.

When it comes to whether paying athletes will elevate them from “amateurs” to professionals, Strode believes institutions will push back.

“I think the Pandora’s Box which every athletic department and every institution does not want to open yet is the ‘you are a worker,’ right?” Strode said. “Because if you are a worker, if you’re an employee of an institution, that opens up workers compensation.”

Strode said workers compensation claims for injuries sustained during college games could “really shake up the coffers of a lot of institutions.”

“I think that some lawyers are going to make sure that student-athletes are not considered professional and / or employees,” Strode said.

There are, of course, plenty of other questions to work through with the settlement. The NCAA, for example, is proposing that a lot of the money will come from media rights for power conferences, Strode said.

He said it’s worth paying attention to media contracts as they expire, especially for the Big Ten conference, which includes Ohio State.

“I think that’s going to break up college sports even more,” Strode said.

Allie Vugrincic has been a radio reporter at WOSU 89.7 NPR News since March 2023.