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As Tyler Lydon moves on from Syracuse, it’s time for the NCAA to adjust

Athletes should be able to profit from their likeness

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Syracuse v Virginia
Here’s looking at you Rico
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Today officially marks the end of Tyler Lydon’s Syracuse Orange career. Did he officially sign with an agent? Not that we are aware of. Well, then what is he doing that ends his shot at returning to Syracuse next season? He’s signing autographs and taking photos for money. Oh...well Happy Student-Athlete Day everyone!

The NCAA just celebrated the end of the college basketball season. The championship game between the Gonzaga Bulldogs and North Carolina Tar Heels played in front of a crowd of 76,168 in Glendale, Arizona. Television ratings and live video streams were up, and bundles and bundles of cash were made by the NCAA, the member schools, and head coaches. The group noticeably missing of this are the players themselves. It’s been a topic of debate on numerous occassions and was brought into the spotlight again by a twitter feud between ESPN broadcaster Dan Dakich and former Wisconsin Badger Frank Kaminsky.

That comment right there is what hits home with me. In a billion dollar industry, athletes should be able to control and market their own likeness. I’m sure many will use Dakich’s logic (shared by Friend of Cuse Doug Gottlieb) that it’s the name on the front of the jersey that people want to pay for. That’s at the core of the college sports fandom when you get down to it.

However, there is no reason why any college athlete should be unable to market themselves and benefit from their personal brand. Relaxing these rules will not cost the schools money like paying athletes directly would (even though they can afford to pay them), it would also eliminate the lame argument that “If you pay football and basketball, do you pay women’s rowing and softball too?”. If all athletes are free to market themselves, then all of them are free to receive fair value for their image.

Sure, the revenue sports have an advantage, but you can’t deny that Alexis Peterson or Brittany Sykes wouldn’t have marketability in the Syracuse area. Do you think there is interest in the Utah women’s gymnastics team which draws over 15,000 for their home meets? As Jay Bilas says, let the market make that decision, not the NCAA

If there are people willing to pay $20 for a photo and autograph with Tyler Lydon, that doesn’t make him a professional. College athletes like Kyle Snyder and Katie Ledecky have been receiving US Olympic stipends without jeopardizing their NCAA eligibility. It’s time to get with the times, it’s time to stop acting like NCAA athletics isn’t a billion-dollar business enterprise, it’s time to start treating athletes like valued members of this business organization.

Common sense says if you want to encourage more athletes to maximize their education, to graduate in higher numbers, then the NCAA and member schools need to reduce some of the factors which force athletes to leave school. Money is one of those factors and allowing athletes the ability to control and market their likeness is a step in the right direction.