Without college football, Johnny F. would be just another former high school jock and his signature wouldn’t be worth the paper on which it was signed.
In addition to a free college education, Johnny is getting an expensive, specialized training course on how to make it in the NFL – at no cost to Johnny. Unlike studies in business, education, architecture or whatever, this college program includes an elaborate national marketing program that promotes Johnny – at no cost to him. Send out a thousand resumes hoping for one response? No. The NCAA’s program for this career offers Johnny all the promotion he could ever need.
My late friend invented the plastic straw. The terms of his employment were that ownership of his invention went to his employer, a fairly normal arrangement. Without the company’s resources, he never would have invented – or been able to market — the plastic straw. Though he came up with the invention, he had no right to capitalize on it, because in return for agreed-upon benefits, those rights went to his employer, who made it all possible.
Johnny F.’s association with college football and its army of promoters has made his signature worth something, just as my friend’s company made his capacity for invention worth something. For both, there was a contract involved. They received specified benefits, had specified obligations, and drew on the contributions of others. Had my friend violated his agreement and pedaled his invention on the side, he would have been fired. The same should apply to Johnny. The idea that Johnny (or anyone else) should receive the extensive benefits of his contract and still be entitled to profit on the side as he sees fit, is as immature as, well, Johnny F.