President Michael V. Drake discussed Ohio State mental health task force during an interview with members of The Lantern on Sept. 9. Credit: Amal Saeed | Photo Editor

College athletes are inching closer to the chance to make money off of their names with endorsements, marketing deals and other self-marketing opportunities.

But not if University President Michael V. Drake has anything to say about it.

Drake said Tuesday during an interview with Ann Fisher on WOSU Radio that he opposes the prospect of student-athletes profiting from their name, image and likeness.

“We don’t want to have things turn into professional sports,” Drake said in the WOSU interview. “There are professional sports available now. Great. We want to do what we can to maintain collegiate athletics.”

Drake’s comments were in response to the California “Fair Pay to Play Act,” a bill that would allow student-athletes in the state to sign endorsement deals and hire agents without forfeiting college eligibility. The State Senate passed the bill in September, and if passed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, would go into effect in 2023.

Ramogi Huma played football for UCLA in the 1990s. He helped found the advocacy group National College Players Association and has been an adviser for major antitrust lawsuits against the NCAA. He said Ohio State players deserve better.

“These players are people, not university property,” Huma said in an interview with The Lantern. “To assert that the university is in the right, is in the moral high ground, by saying it completely owns its players’ name, image and likeness is unjust and extremely hypocritical.”

Drake’s remarks were made as the chair of the board of governors for the NCAA, University spokesperson Ben Johnson said, therefore Ohio State does not have a statement on his comments. 

“The athletic staff there at Ohio State, they are all paid well because of the work, blood, sweat and brain damage of those college athletes,” Huma said. 

Ohio State Athletics generated more than $205 million in revenue in the 2018 fiscal year, with football bringing in $110,692,709 and men’s and women’s basketball adding $25,330,985, according to the NCAA Financial Report.

The expenses for coaches’ salaries, benefits and bonuses totaled $38,911,213.

“We’re also interested in being appropriate and supporting our students and being fair to our students, and we and all the other schools commit millions, tens of millions, of dollars a year in scholarships and other support to our student-athletes,” Drake said.

Ohio State provided its student-athletes with more than $21 million in athletic student aid in 2018.

The California bill and similar legislation in several other states wouldn’t require universities to pay their athletes, Tim Nevius, founder and executive director of the College Athlete Advocacy Initiative and former NCAA investigator, said. 

Players instead would be able to receive compensation from social media opportunities, marketing deals and self-employment, among other things, he said. 

“Two words: Power and money,” Nevius said. “That’s it. There is no other reasonable justification for restricting the basic economic rights of people in this manner.”

In response to Drake’s desire to prevent college sports from turning professional, Nevius said the university has already crossed that bridge.

“The system is already professional, particularly at a place like Ohio State, when you fill a stadium with over 100,000 people and generate revenues of over $100 million per year,” Nevius said. “That is a professional system in every way except for the fact that the labor is not compensated.”

Two federal court cases have ruled against NCAA restrictions on student-athlete compensation in some capacity. In O’Bannon v. NCAA, the court ruled that the NCAA’s use of players’ names, images and likenesses without compensation was in violation of antitrust laws. Alston v. NCAA found that the NCAA could not place limits on education-related benefits schools provide athletes outside of scholarships.

“The NCAA is a national monopoly. It’s a cartel that’s setting the price of the player’s name, image and likeness at zero dollars,” Huma said. “Federal courts have ruled multiple times that the NCAA is operating an economic cartel that has been illegally pricing players’ compensation on name, image and likeness.”

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith is a co-chair of the NCAA committee that is looking into the issue, and Drake said recommendations from the committee’s report will be released in October.