Could allowing individual endorsements be the solution to college athlete compensation?

Could allowing individual endorsements be the solution to college athlete compensation?
Could allowing individual endorsements be the solution to college athlete compensation?

You're not going to find many supporters of college athletic reform who don't feel that Wednesday's National Labor Relations Board ruling in favor of Northwestern players' efforts to form a union is a sign of change.

What will that change mean? Well, people are still trying to figure that out.

Many of the questions raised by Wednesday's decision were brought up on Twitter Wednesday night by former Missouri wide receiver T.J. Moe, who played for the Tigers from 2009-2012 and ranks fifth all-time in career receptions at Mizzou. Moe feels a union isn't the solution to the issue of athlete compensation.

"What Northwestern is doing is essentially doing is threatening the existence of what we know college football to be," Moe told Yahoo Sports on Wednesday night."It's not going to totally threaten college football, because there are some schools that would be able to pay their athletes because they have huge revenues. But for most schools, they will actually have to shut down half their programs and there will be lawsuits ... It is much more damaging to the NCAA, if you ask me, what Northwestern is doing.

"Now, the O'Bannon case is a bigger threat, I would say for accomplishing something. A union isn't going to accomplish something. It's only going to tear it down."

The O'Bannon case seeks damages from the NCAA and its member schools for the usage of college athletes' likenesses as college athletes currently don't receive any revenue from the use of their image.

College athletes also aren't allowed endorsement deals. Moe said he'd like to see endorsements opened up to college athletes. Why? Because it'd allow athletes to capitalize on their current earning potential and it wouldn't bankrupt schools that didn't have the revenues to pay players.

"If you're going to a big enough school, you're going to get on the map anyway. Tell me right now (Missouri WR) Dorial Green-Beckham, if it were allowed, wouldn't have full-fledged million-dollar endorsement from Nike," Moe said. "He would, no question about it. Because he's going to be a first-round draft pick next year and everyone knows it."

An endorsement system certainly wouldn't be equitable for all college athletes; obviously not everyone would get a deal. And with men's football and basketball being most universities' primary revenue producers, deals would heavily skew to those sports. But since the income wouldn't be from the school, it wouldn't be affected by Title IX regulations.

However, the NCAA does like to say that most athletes go pro in something other than sports and such an endorsement system would be much like the professional marketplace. Don't many people go to college to maximize their earning potential in life?

For many NCAA athletes, their collegiate years are the peak of their athletic earnings potential through endorsements. Moe referenced 1997 Nebraska Heisman Trophy-winner Eric Crouch, who wasn't able to capitalize on his massive fame as a collegian via endorsement deals.

As Crouch's pro career didn't take off, his biggest accomplishments as an athlete were at Nebraska, where he didn't get any of the royalties the school received from using his likeness, nor was he able to do commercials for car dealerships or any other company that could benefit from his pitch.

Moe, who spent 2013 on injured-reserve for the New England Patriots after he tore his Achilles' tendon in June, can relate.

"(In college) I'm bringing in millions and millions and millions of dollars of revenue because I show up on Saturday and I score touchdowns. And they sell my jersey. They sold the '28' jersey (Moe's number in college) in the Mizzou store, in the Wal-Marts around Missouri for three years, since my first game as a sophomore. And I didn't see a dime of it. I don't care, but that was, right there, probably the top of my money-making potential in life."

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Nick Bromberg is the assistant editor of Dr. Saturday on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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