A pair of veteran college basketball players plan to use Wednesday night’s game between Pittsburgh and No. 20 Michigan to begin publicly campaigning for the NCAA and its schools to share revenue with athletes.
Michigan’s Hunter Dickinson and Pitt’s Jamarius Burton are among a group of athletes who will be writing the letter S on their hands during games this season to draw attention to their attempt to advocate for a new business model in college sports. The S, according to the players, stands for share.
They are hoping to amplify calls for the NCAA to change its rules in a way that allows the association and its schools to distribute more of its resources to athletes.
Their efforts are the latest addition to widespread efforts among athletes, advocates and politicians to expand the benefits college athletes receive — a list that includes expanded education-related benefits and the relatively new ability to make money by selling the rights to their name, image orlikeness.
“NIL opened the floodgates for stuff like this,” Dickinson said. “It’s easier to see now how the idea of amateurism in sports is misleading. … Seeing the money athletes are getting goes to show how much is in college sports and how much some are hoarding it.”
Dickinson said he and Burton are part of a group of players who connected via conference calls over the past several weeks to discuss the campaign. He said he plans to draw an S on his hand for Wednesday night’s game and then determine other steps that he and others might take during what might be his final season in the NCAA.
Their campaign is being organized in part by the National College Players Association, an advocacy group that has tried to change college sports through legislation, legal action and public pressure during the past several tumultuous years for the NCAA.
Along with asking for a share of profits, the players said in a press release they want to find ways to protect the existence of non-revenue sports, enforce Title IX rules, improve safety and medical care, ensure that Congress does not create any federal laws that would walk back the newly-established NIL rules, and to open the door for scholarship money in the Ivy League.
The Ivy League does not offer athletic scholarships. The group of prestigious universities previously had a Congressional antitrust exemption to allow that to happen but that expired earlier this year. Now, some players say the policy is violating the law and limiting their options. Dickinson said that issue is important to him because of friends he has playing in the Ivy League.
Brown basketball player Grace Kirk said in a press release that limiting the ways in which athletes can receive financial aid prevents some high-level athletes from exploring the possibility of getting an Ivy League education.
“We work just as hard as any other D1 team,” Kirk said. “Doing it without scholarship opportunities adds another element of difficulty to our intense combination of training and studying. Unfortunately, some high-level athletes cannot make the financial sacrifice to play for Ivy League schools without scholarship money.”
NCPA leader Ramogi Huma, a former UCLA football player, said that the group plans to engage lawmakers and other enforcement agencies to try to reach these goals. Huma filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board last year in an effort to give college athletes the ability to unionize. That case is pending. He and the NCPA also recently filed a complaint asking the Department of Justice.
Huma said they are proposing that a portion of the revenue from football and basketball programs should be split equally among all players on the team. The NCPA previously helped college basketball players organize a social media protest during the 2021 March Madness tournament, among other efforts. Some of Dickinson’s former teammates were leaders in that push.
“It was kind of my duty to agree this time because of the guys who stepped up earlier,” he said.
Dickinson said he doesn’t expect the changes he’s advocating will be put in place during his time as a college athlete, but he said he wants future athletes to get a fair share of the value they help create. He said he has no plans to protest in ways other than showing public support for the campaign.