Pandora’s Box about to open for college sports

In this Aug. 7, 2018, file photo, Iowa State tight end Chase Allen takes a photo with his cell phone during Iowa State's annual football media day in Ames, Iowa. While autograph-signing and public appearances have been traditional ways athletes could make extra money, opportunities now are tied to social media posts where athletes could in the future be paid for posting sponsored content. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)
It was many years ago and I wish I could tell you exactly what year. But I’m guessing it was the summer of 1996 and I do remember this — I was doing laundry in my apartment complex.
Really, the story has to get better.
I was reading a shopper during the rinse cycle and there was an ad for some kind of gathering out in Alachua which would include a chance to meet some great Florida Gator players such as Jevon Kearse and Mike Peterson.
The trouble was that they were still eligible players and this would have been an NCAA violation. So I let Florida’s compliance director Jamie McCloskey know about it and they put a stop to it and eventually cleared it up.
“I remember that,” said Peterson, now a coach at South Carolina. “But I don’t think I ever was going to go out there.”
The reason this old story is relevant is that we are closing in on a new world when it comes to compensating players. The very things that used to get teams in trouble will soon be commonplace once Congress (or the states) settle on names, images and likenesses (NIL) legislation.
There is a bill, which would take effect July 2021, on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk waiting for his signature, but the Power Five Conference commissioners recently wrote a letter to Congress to come up with a federal law that would apply to everyone instead of different rules for different universities in different states.
The implication is that the Power Five can’t wait for the NCAA to do it on its own and in an expedient manner.
“Something is going to happen and by this time next year, there might be something,” McCloskey said. “The big thing is that someone is going to have to keep track of it all.”
It’s almost impossible to know how many worms are going to be allowed to leave the can until we know what the rules are going to be. And enforcing those rules is going to be a massive headache for compliance staffs, especially when a football player from out of state goes home and is offered big money to be in a barbecue commercial.
In a perfect world, compliance staffs would hire more people to stay on top of things, but as we know, university athletic associations are struggling so much that some have had to cut sports.
There are so many issues once things get sorted out. So I talked to some former Gator standouts to get their take on what it would be like to receive extra income from commercials or jersey sales or Instagram accounts.
“I’m really torn,” said Danny Wuerffel, the Heisman Trophy winning quarterback. “I really don’t see a very good solution in either direction. I wonder about some schools offering more than others. If I’m going to get a large amount of money, what about Jason Odom protecting me at tackle?
“I talked to Herschel Walker about it and the president asked him to lead a team to explore it. His idea was that the money would go to a trust fund.”
Certainly, there could be massive defections on teams by players who don’t feel they are being put in positions to earn extra money. I mean, the transfer portal has already changed the landscape of college football.
And there is also the fact that quarterbacks are the face of almost every program. The Athletic recently did a story estimating the worth of some of last year’s players through different advertising opportunities and social media followers.
Joe Burrow ($705,000), Tua Tagovailoa ($444,000) and Trevor Lawrence ($400,000) were at the top of the football chain. That will buy a lot of pizzas.
“I’m all for change,” said former Florida All-American safety Ahmad Black, “because the NCAA is a monopoly. There are kids who come to school and never have to worry about having money in their pockets, but there are a lot who do have that issue.
“People at Division I schools get hungry, too.”
Shane Matthews, the former Gator quarterback whose son Luke is a preferred walk-on at UF, is one of those former players with mixed emotions.
“It’s interesting because I just don’t know how they are going to regulate it,” he said. “I think about what Tim Tebow and Wuerffel would have made. But the old school college athlete in me feels like you have to wait to get paid.”
It’s not just football players who will be affected, of course. Gymnast Kyla Ross of UCLA was estimated to be worth $323K by The Athletic and you’d have to think the members of the popular Florida gymnastics (especially Trinity Thomas) and softball teams would profit.
But again, we don’t know what the rules will look like, what will be available. Even way back, a guy like Steve Spurrier or Neal Walk would have been able to capitalize on an opportunity to get paid for showing up at The Brown Derby or Dubi’s to get some pictures taken.
“On a selfish level, it would have been fun to see my jersey in the bookstore and get something for it,” said Lee McGriff, an All-SEC receiver whose son, Travis, was also a star for the Gators. “But on the flip side, putting on my coaching hat for a second, think of all the turmoil it could cause.”
That may be the most interesting part. Are players fighting for playing time to cash in now or at the next level?
Maybe the best idea I heard talking to some Gator greats was this one from Peterson.
“Maybe you don’t get anything until your junior or senior year and you have to have a certain amount of credit hours to be eligible for any money,” he said.
Something that actually makes sense.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at And follow at