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ACC Media Day: Jim Boeheim says California name and likeness law may not be fair

Boeheim sees money entering the locker room as a possible point of internal divide.

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NCAA Basketball: Pittsburgh at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse Orange men’s basketball coach Jim Boeheim provided his viewpoint on the California law that would allow NCAA players to profit off their likeness on Tuesday at ACC Media Day.

The law, signed a week ago, prevents ineligibility, or schools otherwise punishing athletes for cashing in on signing events, YouTube ad revenue or promotional deals. It would be the first move to allow student athletes to be paid through non-scholarship means. Though the bill still doesn’t give schools the right to pay the players.

On the David Glenn Show, Boeheim worried about internal divisions and resentment forming over income inequality among players. If one or two got $25,000, he proposed, the rest of the room would make less net money for their participation. The argument highlighted concerns about how many players could feasibly draw deals.

“It’s easy to say players should be compensated based on their ‘image,’” Boeheim said. “But that would result in some players getting good money and others getting nothing. We want it to be fair.”

Syracuse Athletics would not need to dish out one cent to athletes under California’s proposal. Payment comes from outside groups like car companies and restaurants who want Elijah Hughes, for example, to sponsor them.

Boeheim said he would feel pressure to accommodate every player with agents to allow them all to get a deal. Several states proposed their own ideas in the wake of the bill passing.

Boeheim’s issue stems from the fact that most players currently receives the same dollar amount. While he supports increasing income for them, the California initiative does not retain equal opportunity.

“I’ve asked our players how they would feel if one guy was getting $25,000 per year to do commercials and some others got nothing,” he said. “I don’t think it would go over well.”

While Boeheim’s comments fell in line with skeptics who don’t think sponsorships would substantially increase player income, he stepped further to laud the NCAA’s current efforts. He said outsiders don’t understand the true value of the package that scholarship athletes receive.

The tuition payment also includes breakfast, lunch and dinner. Boeheim added that players also receive a monthly board payment of $1,400, cash. Additional money goes to players with Pell Grants, which he valued at $600 per month. This year, the Pell Grant maximum was $6,195, roughly $688 over nine months. In 2014, the NCAA allowed colleges to grant student athletes unlimited meals and snacks.

“The food option was a great move,” Boeheim said. “Cost of attendance was great ... Pell Grants are still good. Whatever we can do to tick it up a little bit.”

Glenn largely ate Boeheim’s commentary until he pushed back on the notion of equality. Players already sit in a hierarchy, he argued. Some get more social attention. The best players get the minutes, roles and notoriety that lead to more opportunities in life. Money would sort itself out the same way.

Elsewhere at media day, Coach K supported the bill. Roy Williams simply hoped he is alive when the bill enacts in 2023. Aamir Simms, of Clemson, supported extra payment while Louisville’s Steven Enoch joined Boeheim in support of an initiative focused specifically on making sure players are provided the proper compensation for food, in particular.

John Swofford, the ACC commissioner, committed to an open mind on endorsement deals. The NCAA is planning to aggressively challenge California’s bill, and threatened that schools in the state could be barred from postseason play. The state’s largest schools like (private) USC and (public) UCLA have voiced concerns about how the bill is implemented.