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Jim Boeheim and Syracuse basketball team talk NCAA name, image & likeness usage

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The NCAA’s announcement was on everyone’s mind.

Baylor v Syracuse Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Following the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team’s exhibition win on Tuesday night, Jim Boeheim commented on the implications and implementation of NCAA athletes profiting off their likenesses. Jim’s remarks stretched into pay-to-play and transfer freedom as well.

But Buddy Boeheim’s first thought (and the first thought for many of us): this could bring back those NCAA video games.

Jim’s reaction underscored the complicated transition facing college basketball after the NCAA Board of Governors unanimously voted to progress to allow players to profit off their likeness. Coaches and administrators grapple with their long-held dominance over income being challenged, as well as their structure of team-building.

Some worry about implementation and unintended recruiting consequences. Current players hear about something that probably won’t effect them. Most probably can’t imagine an alternative to such a long-standing system. Outsiders remain skeptical the NCAA would stomp on its own amateurism model that it has fought so vigorously to maintain.

“I don’t think they’re coming out with anything because they’re going to have to have some kind of restrictions,” Boeheim said after Syracuse’s scrimmage against Charleton. “They’re going to have to. And when they do that, say they limit what a guy can get, then there’s going to be a lawsuit. It still gets down to there’s 4,000 players and 3,950 of them are happy to have a scholarship. They’re worried about 50 people making money.”

Boeheim continues to assert his support of the idea, in theory. Though he touts the $1,400 board payment, food allowances and Pell grants as effective progress. He wants more for players, but only an equal increase in opportunity.

He envisioned athletes comparing sponsorship opportunities across different colleges and cities, which would likely favor high-profile schools even more. Current initiatives, he said, are equal. Whether Elijah Hughes or Jesse Edwards walk into Syracuse, they should get the same benefits.

But Hughes received all the shots for Syracuse in the second half of Syracuse’s win over Charleton. Edwards sat on the bench. Boeheim said it in the same presser, if players can help them, they’ll play. If not, they’ll sit. That hierarchy exists more prominently in sports than any other field. Though his argument intersected with pay-to-play and free transferring, other hot-button issues the NCAA is far from addressing.

“It’s a good theory, it’s a good political ploy, because everybody’s for it,” Boeheim said. “I’m for it. Who’s not for players getting something? I’m for it. It comes back to money and all the other sports, they’re not getting anything.”

California approved a bill to allow college players to profit off their likeness last month. At ACC media day, Boeheim similarly backed the bill but noted it could disrupt chemistry. Colleagues staged fiercer rebukes of California’s governor, while Coach K endorsed the move. A name that powerful landing in the court of the players likely had a powerful sway on the board, headed by Ohio State’s Michael V. Drake.

The amount of ground Drake and the NCAA yielded on Tuesday is not clear. A press release announced the move would be “consistent with the collegiate model.” It’s unclear how the NCAA will institute likeness, image and name profiting. Heavy restrictions could render the move useless, allowing college sports to get ahead of widening legal movements attempting to undercut amateurism. U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah) announced lawmakers are “coming for (NCAA)” this month.

“Let’s face it, it still comes down to if three or four or five, six guys are making $30,000 in commercials,” Boeheim said. “Why aren’t they professional? They are, technically. They’re making money. It’s 18, 19, 20 year-old kids. I don’t see it, I don’t see how it’s good.”

Jim’s questions aren’t necessarily around players making money, but specifically, just a few of them doing so while other don’t/can’t.

In Syracuse’s locker room, players generally supported the idea of widening income opportunities for themselves. All also expressed gratefulness for the opportunities they have now.

“Does that mean, video games are going to come out?” Brycen Goodine asked.

It was Buddy Boeheim’s immediate reaction too. NCAA Basketball and Football franchises ended in 2009 and 2013, respectively. Player image concerns would name a player like Hughes, for example, No. 33 in the game — despite using a player that looked and played exactly like him. The NCAA’s change could lead to licensing the likenesses of players across college basketball. That’d be the move of greatest equity.

“I don’t see why not get some money off of signing a poster, signing autographs, or taking a picture,” Buddy said. “Because a lot of times people will get your autograph and try to sell it and make money for themselves instead of making you money as an athlete.”

Howard Washington considered it a move in the right direction. Student athletes live tougher lives than people see on the outside, he said. With all the money outside groups make on their likenesses, they should be able to get some back for themselves.

“It’d be good for all the work that we put in,” Goodine said.