Todd Gurley and the NCAA

The Todd Gurley story has dominated the college football landscape over the past week. My facebook and twitter feeds have been full of complaints regarding the NCAA and the rules that prohibit athletes from profiting off of their autographs. Even today on SiriusXM channel 91 a host was bashing the “silly” rules.

One of the more critical articles came from Boston Globe writer Christopher L. Gasper. You can view the article here: click. Gasper is a former Patriot and NFL writer.

In short, Gasper slams the NCAA for prohibiting athletes to profit off of their signatures, likeness, etc. Gasper makes the ridiculous claim that, because of the NCAA rule book, that a player is better off being accused of rape.

Gasper fails to realize that the NCAA has not suspended Gurley. UGA has issued the suspension. Conversely, FSU has not suspended Jameis Winston.

Gasper then goes on to make the tired argument that while UGA is selling Gurley jerseys for $100 each, they aren’t selling “lab coats worn by promising chemistry students”. This is where Gasper’s argument begins to fall apart.

Gurley’s autograph is worth as much as it is because he plays at one of the most high profile college football programs in the country. UGA’s television and media contracts help make Gurley’s name more prominent. Gasper is right when he says Gurley’s autograph would be worth the same at Tennessee, Miami, or USC. All of those schools have similar exposure to UGA. That exposure is, in part, because of the investments made, over decades, by the institutions and their conferences.

Gurley could have gone to Division III school to play football and had little to no exposure. His autograph would have been worth virtual nothing. His autograph is only worth what it is because he plays at a premier football school.

Similar to how Gurley cannot profit from his autograph, lab students who invent a profitable product or medication while using a university’s time and equipment generally do not own the rights to their invention.

Gasper’s convenient “free markets and supply and demand” is no less availing in his own world. I imagine Gasper’s own employment contract does not allow him to write freelance pieces for the USA Today or New York Times. Further, I have not seen Gasper write about the inequity of the NFL’s salary cap which limits what some players otherwise might receive in the “free market”.

Gurley is going to make millions of dollars in a few short months. UGA has provided him the stage, training, and coaching that have allowed him to showcase his abilities and put him in his current position.