Noie: Seismic? Nah ... Name, image, likeness now just a part of college athletics world

Tom Noie
ND Insider

Anytime something big happens in college athletics, everyone with an interest in them turns into armchair seismologists.

Watch out when this or that occurs, because it will be an earthquake! Here comes the latest seismic shift for college sports. Get out your Richter scales and your seismographs and buckle up. How can college athletics continue to exist? Will it? Will the world?

Stop. College sports — even the College Football Playoff/national championship chase that Notre Dame has been running since 1988 — doesn’t carry as much seriousness as the San Andreas.

Notre Dame running back Kyren WIlliams emerged in 2020 as one of the top running backs in the country.

That’s our fault.

The latest such declaration of potential clashing of tectonic plates (sorry, can’t help it) occurred Thursday — July 1, 2021 — when the Name, Image and Likeness policy went to affect. It now allows college athletes (time to do away with that student part now that so much more legal tender is involved) to profit on said name, image and likeness.

Somebody want to pay Notre Dame running back Kyren Williams to sit and sign some autographs this week at the Saint Joseph County Fair? Help the Irish women’s basketball team set up a hoops camp and charge $75 per kid? Get Irish baseball player Jack Brannigan to spend a couple hours showing the kids how to best hit a curve at $25 a lesson?

Everything's now possible — and legal — for college athletes.

At midnight Thursday, a handful of Irish athletes already had signed deals with YOKE, a gaming app created by former Notre Dame football walk-on Mick Assaf. Midnight had barely come and gone, and YOKE boasted that it had deals in place for 4,000 college athletes. By day’s end, that number had jumped to over 10,000.

Six hours after the NIL clock struck midnight and the athlete earning floodgates opened, the sun still rose in the East. Birds still chirped. Another summer day dawned and unfolded just as it did before NIL. Afternoon felt like afternoon. Evening like evening. Nobody ran out for emergency supplies of bread and milk. Life looked and felt pretty much the same Thursday as it did Wednesday, as it would through the holiday weekend.

We’ve been down this whole seismic shift road. Remember in 2012 and 2013 and all those conference musical chairs? Maryland bolting the Atlantic Coast Conference for the Big Ten. Notre Dame jumping from a crumbling Big East for the Atlantic Coast Conference. West Virginia setting out for the Big 12? Seismic shifts seemingly were everywhere and would lead us to who knew where once the music stopped.

Eventually, everything settled down and college athletics settled back into being college athletics. Football was football. Basketball was basketball. The landscape might’ve looked and felt a little different, but the views were pretty similar.

► More:A new NIL day for Notre Dame athletes

Another seismic event was feared in 2017. That one involved the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the cesspool that was and continues to be college basketball recruiting. There were tales of bribes and wire taps and actual college head coaches (we still see you Will Wade) on tape talking about making offers to college prospects.

Watch out, we were warned. When everything about that case was flushed out, it would blow the lid off hoops recruiting. Change the college game forever. Another seismic event across the landscape of college athletics, right?

A couple assistant coaches lost their jobs. Someone nobody really heard of did some prison time. The NCAA tried to do what the NCAA should do, but the schools and their coaches that certainly were set up to take a big fall still stood strong.

Another seismic shift predicted and averted.

Thirty years ago, the thought of paying college athletes was pipe-dream preposterous. But so was paying bills and watching videos on a phone that you could keep in your pocket. Times change. Life goes on. So do college sports.

Notre Dame forward Sam Brunelle was one of thousands of current college athletes to sign up with YOKE, as a way to possibly earn money under new NCAA regulations.

And now it’s NIL, something everyone saw coming down the collegiate highway. Given where we are in the world today, where college athletics is in the world, where college athletes are in the world, it wasn’t a question of if athletes would get paid, but when. It was going to happen. It has happened. It’s now happening.

Athletes from all corners of college sports — from the big money revenue producers of football and basketball to the “Olympic” sports — are ready to cash in. Have cashed in. Will cash in.

From free tuition to room and board to cost of attendance to plenty of year-round gear supplied by a university’s apparel company, today's college athletes aren’t as destitute as many want you to believe. They live well. They eat well. They travel well, often on charter flights and five-star hotels. They’ve done all right, and will do even better now that NIL is here and happening.

Even with all the free stuff, college athletes have insisted they deserve more. What do you expect them to say? Nah, they’re good? Of course they want a bite of the apple. It’s a big apple. The NCAA is a multi-billion dollar business making truckloads of cash off college kids. Eventually, the kids were going to realize that the days of something for nothing are over. They’re over. 

NIL's here, but the fall and winter and spring seasons will go on. The games will be played. Teams will win and lose. Athletes will come and go. Some will cash in — a lot. Others, not so much. A few, not at all.

Student-athletes? Yeah, right. Last week’s news pretty much put an end to the student part of that equation. Most will be paid athletes. Seemingly employees more than students. So what happens if NIL plays too big a role in a college athlete’s life? What happens when they become more concerned (consumed) about the business of the sport than playing the sport?

What happens then?

There’s always seismology.

Follow South Bend Tribune and NDInsider columnist Tom Noie on Twitter: @tnoieNDI