Johnny’s Signature Is Worthless Without the NCAA



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.   


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Mike Merrell

Mike Merrell

Mike (Editor-in-Chief) is a 1970 graduate of the University of Oregon where he attended the Honors College and received all-conference honors as a swimmer. After college, Mike ran for the Oregon Track Club and narrowly missed qualifying for the US Olympic Trials in the marathon. He continues his involvement in sports with near-daily swimming or running workouts, occasional masters swim competition (where he has received two Top-10 World rankings), providing volunteer coaching to local triathletes and helping out with Mike lives on 28 acres in the forest near Sandpoint, Idaho, where he has served as a certified public accountant for most of his working career. His current night job is writing novels about Abby Westminster, the only known illegitimate daughter of Britain's finest secret agent who has to bring down arch-villains plotting dastardly deeds. And, yes, Abby is also a DUCK!

  • GratefulD420

    Nice points and analogy. I am a strong believer that of the two main college athlete types 1. those going to the pros and 2. those receiving a free education are both receiving just compensation.

    In the case of a guy with pro talent; he is getting the training and carried through his development step by step until his big pay day. The company making the big pay day has mandated this is the only way to make it… so it also could be considered “paying the union dues.”

    In the case of the guy without enough talent for the pros, he’s getting a free education (meals, tutors, housing, etc.).

    One area I would like to see improvement for, is health and tuition for full ride guys that receive serious or permanent injuries during practice or games. The NCAA & universities should continue the scholarship as long as all other virtues and expectations of the student is met.

    Other than this last case; all the players are benefiting from the University and NCAA’s current terms of contract. The Universities should just make certain to have the athletes officially sign away their “likeness.”

    • Mike Merrell, Editor

      Grateful –
      Thanks for the comments. That’s a good point about taking care of those who get injured. I agree that they are the only “losers” in the present arrangement.