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Steve Matthies Mug

Steve Matthies

Sports editor

There have been a lot of eyes looking at California’s law which would allow athletes to make money off their names and likenesses — and they are not just from the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the bombastic organization at the head of most college sports programs.

“We have been looking at it since the California bill started,” Jim Carr said the other day.

“Schools paying athletes is not part of the equation,” the president of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics said. “What it does is give student-athletes a chance to earn money. The can go out be treated like other students who are not athletes.”

A novel concept.

The reality is that few athletes receive complete, 100 percent grants in aid. Those who do are almost exclusively limited to major college football and basketball programs.

The vast majority of student-athletes receive less than 25 percent of their educational costs through an athletic grant-in-aid.

With academic help and a myriad of other scholarship programs available, students can cut their personal liability for their overall college costs.

Stringent, almost archaic, NCAA rules make that almost impossible for athletes.

The NCAA has asked schools in all three of its divisions to develop ideas of how student-athletes can be allowed to gain compensation for things like signing autographs, having their names used to endorse products and a variety of other efforts.

How it plays out remains to be seen, since schools have several months (the deadline is Jan. 1, 2021) before their reports are due to the NCAA.

“The NCAA hasn’t done anything, yet, and is still trying to figure it all out,” Carr said, “so we really do not know what the impact will be.”

Still, he thinks the NAIA has an opportunity to be a national leader, like it has many times over the decades.

The NAIA, among its other leadership moments, was the first athletic organization to allow black athletes to participate in championships at the national level.

While the organization has far fewer schools than the NCAA, the NAIA has created some positive environments for its student-athletes, and its Champions of Character program is a strong, compelling reason for its existence.

It provides, according to the NAIA national website, training for student-athletes and professional development for coaches and staff. Its five core values are integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship and servant leadership.

It is a mindset far removed from most NCAA programs, especially at the Division I, or major college, levels.

“If we do it right, we might put NAIA students in a better position,” Carr said. “This is an opportunity for us to work with our membership to ease restrictions. Depending upon the long haul, these are all things major schools will have to take into account.

“We can’t predict whether Division 2 and Division 3 schools will do, but we hope they will do it right. The vast majority of student-athletes get their opportunities at the Division 2, Division 3 and NAIA (schools).

“We will keep an eye on what’s best for our student-athletes,” Carr said.

One sociologist was quoted in an Associated Press story as saying: “What I think the NCAA is doing in order to shield themselves from criticism, is to talk about student-athletes as a monolithic group.

“The reality is there is a big difference between revenue-generating student-athletes (basically football and basketball at Division I schools), and all the other student athletes.

“They’re simply allowing student-athletes to out and try to make money on their own.”

With the commitment to their teams and their academics, this only will add to the strain and stress of being a college student, not unlike that of students who are not involved with their schools athletic programs.

With other states looking to pass legislation similar to California, there will be pressure for the NCAA to develop quality, helpful programs, and that could be a serious pipe dream.

As it has in the past, look for the NAIA to be in the lead to helps schools develop the kind of programs which truly will benefit student-athletes.

Steve Matthies is Herald and News sports editor. He can be reached at 541-885-4411, or at smatthies@heraldandnews.com.