The NCAA's Division I Board of Directors recently announced a new rule that will allow for college athletes to profit from their name, image, and likeness. The move is years in the making, and represents perhaps the most momentous decision in the history of college sports.
In addition to providing a new platform for players to profit off of their name, the ruling also raises into question previous decisions made by the NCAA. Young athletes who may have signed an autograph once have often had their statistics and trophies eradicated from the record books, while programs who engaged in suspicious activities have often had numerous titles and wins vacated. Still, the notably stubborn NCAA is unlikely to back down on previous decisions:
Regardless of what the powers that be decide to do now and in the future, the past is the past. Plenty of box-office gridiron stars have passed through the college ranks unable to cash in on their fame. Therefore, it's worth looking back at the following college football players who could have benefitted the most from the NCAA's new NIL policy.
College football embraced duel-threat quarterbacks long before the NFL, and running from the pocket has always been an accepted part of the collegiate game. However, before Michael Vick, scramblers were just that: 'running' quarterbacks. The Virginia Tech star changed the game, using his elite athleticism to wreak havoc against defenses on the ground and through the air.
While Vick's passing numbers may seem somewhat pedestrian compared to today's gunslingers, his status as a college (and NFL) game-changer is unquestionable. Number seven could run for a ten yard gain or toss a fifty-yard touchdown with his cannon-like arm, something few running QBs have ever had the ability to do. The sheer thrill of seeing such a bold new brand of quarterback play, combined with Tech's stellar 22-2 record during his time in Blacksburg, would have made Vick a surefire cash cow.
You had to know that Manziel would make his way onto this list. The eminently watchable, and quotable, quarterback took the college football world by storm his first year, becoming the (then) only freshman to have ever won the Heisman Trophy in 2012. While at College Station, the star QB also earned a reputation as a hard partier, which only fueled the legend that was Johnny Football.
What may not have been known by the public is that Manziel did profit off of his name while in college. In June, he admitted to signing thousands of autographs for a total of "three grand". Therefore, it only makes sense that Manziel would be willing to give today's generation of athletes advice on how to best maximize their personal brand:
Although Manziel did manage to make some cash while in college, it would have been fascinating to see what kind of marketing opportunities he could have taken part of had the NCAA allowed him.
The lone defender on the list, Bosworth was truly one of a kind while in college at Oklahoma. His complete defensive game was the backbone of a dominant Sooner squad that won a National Championship in 1985. Arguably the greatest to ever play the linebacker position in college, Bosworth's bone-crushing hits and blazing speed made him a highlight reel waiting to happen every Saturday.
However, Bosworth's play wasn't what made him a national icon. It was his brash, unapologetic personality, trademark blond hair, and penchant for controversy that made him draw national headlines. Most notably, his response to an Orange Bowl ban from the NCAA in 1986 for a failed steroid test was to wear a shirt that said National Communists Against Athletes. The move resulted in his dismissal from Oklahoma and eventual declaration for the NFL Draft. In an NIL-friendly, social-media world, who knows how much bigger The Boz's personal brand could have become.
The All-American charm of Tim Tebow could have been a major draw for sponsors had the former Florida quarterback played under the current NIL rules. Tebow had plenty of on-field success, including two National Championships and a Heisman Trophy in 2007. However, his wholesome personality and outspoken Christian faith also managed to attract plenty of fans from across the country.
If Tebow was able to profit, there is no telling what kind of branding opportunities could have been in store. There is plenty of past precedent that shows his name was a major cash cow. Tebow's recent jersey sales with the Jacksonville Jaguars made him the first person to ever have a best-selling day in five different uniforms, counting his baseball days in the New York Mets organization. On top of that, the guy knew how to capitalize on his success; during the peak of the 'Tebowing' meme in 2012, Tim managed to trademark the move.
In one of the most notable instances of an NIL crackdown, the NCAA found former USC Trojan Reggie Bush guilty of accepting "impermissible benefits" during his time in L.A. The ensuing punishment resulted in the removal of Bush's Heisman, along with his personal statistics and 2004 National Champion USC's record during his time on campus. Another unfortunate side effect was USC disassociating itself from Bush, one of the greatest players in the history of the school. Luckily, USC's stance appears to have changed following the announcement of new NIL rules, but the NCAA is still adamant about refusing to give back previously stripped awards and titles, including Bush's Heisman:
However, the damage done to Bush's legacy is still very apparent. An electrifying runner with ahead-of-his-time pass catching ability out of the backfield, Bush made a name for himself while carrying one of college football's prestige programs to arguably its greatest heights. That it all came crashing down after he left college football says more about the NCAA's archaic policy towards NIL than it does about Bush's character. A world where the running back was allowed to endorse himself could have been much better for both parties, then and now. Besides, just imagine the Bush Push merchandise we could have seen while Reggie was in college.
Honorable Mentions: Vince Young, Raghib Ismail, Doug Flutie, Peyton Manning, Bo Jackson, Herschel Walker, Desmond Howard, Deion Sanders, Vinny Testaverde, Baker Mayfield, Ricky Williams, Matt Leinart
Brian Armetta is a freelance sportswriter residing in New York City. He spends much of his weekend watching his favorite AAU football teams, the Jets and Giants.