Fair Pay to Play: Jason Candle’s on the Players’ Side

Earlier this week, Jason Candle’s opinion on whether or not college athletes should profit off their likeness during his weekly press conference made its rounds on Twitter.

I’ve transcribed the full exchange between Candle and the Toledo reporter (Jordan Strack, I believe):

Reporter: The state of California has signed into law allowing college athletes to benefit from their likeness. Do you have an opinion one way or the other about whether or not college athletes should at least benefit from their likeness and things like that?

Candle: That’s cool. I wasn’t aware of that. Did that happen today?

Reporter: Today.

Candle: Cool.

Obviously it’s a slippery slope. We’re not professional sports, we’re college athletics. If we’re going to make it professional sports, then I think that there’s other things that —

I love the pageantry of college football. I love what it brings. I’m not here nor there to judge what the NFL is or anything that they do, but I’m a college football guy. I like that product. I like a sold-out stadium on a Saturday. I like people from BYU that don’t ever get to see their team play in the stands watching their team, cheering for their team. I love that the Glass Bowl is full with Rocket fans and I love how all that goes together. I love that our kids have to get up on Monday morning and go to class. I love that we got home at 8:11 a.m. last Sunday and they have a workday sitting in front of their face. I love all the things that go into that.

I just think it’s a really slippery slope that if we try to make this professional athletics. But I also understand the other part of that too. I don’t think that it’s right that a young man’s jersey can get sold for millions of dollars and he doesn’t get a dime for it. I don’t think that’s right. The truth lies in between there somewhere, and there’s a happy medium that I think we have to continue to work and put our heads together to kind of come to common ground to figure out. 

Reporter: Does it feel like that though if that happens, a school like Toledo wouldn’t be able to benefit as much as an Ohio State or something like that? Does it make the gap further between big schools and small schools?

Candle: Not if the media market does their job and promotes our school. 

As a quick primer of what’s going on in California as told by a dumb person: California SB 206 was finally signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsome on Monday. This bill is also known as The Fair Pay to Play Act, and it’s made its media rounds over the past few months. This new rule won’t come in effect until 2023, this rule doesn’t let schools directly pay its players, and it’s not the start of a slippery slope towards professionalism. No school, organization, group, or conference can prevent a college player in that state (from USC to El Camino College) to receive money for their likeness. Students must have state-registered representation and coaches aren’t allowed to pull somebody’s scholarship because a player is getting paid.

Candle, like too many other coaches, was quick to be skeptical about college players being paid like professionals [when there should be some sort of noticeable difference between the two], but he ultimately said the thing that matters most. He’s morally in support of players receiving some sort of benefit for their likeness, but didn’t get too deep into specifics outside of players’ jerseys being sold for millions of dollars and the player not getting anything out of it. After a follow-up question, Candle assumed the responsibility of players’ value in likeness be worn by the [immediate] media market. While Candle’s not totally wrong with his quick and confident response to that, he’s not totally right, either.

It is up to the local news outlets to publish content that’s most interested by its readers and viewers. Some things (Justin Fields) get more traction than others (Bryant Koback), and there’s a number of reasons for that. Ohio State’s fanbase and support, alumni or not, is simply bigger than Toledo or Bowling Green’s immediately and nationally. More resources from local and national news outlets have proven time and time again that more resources are poured into pumping out more content on the bigger schools than it does the smaller schools. Year after year, more cuts are made in big and small newsrooms across the country to please the for-profit shareholders many media companies rely on, and team-specific coverage for MAC teams by the local papers isn’t comparable to what Michigan State’s press box looks like.

Fortunately for Toledo, the coverage has been good, because it’s in a media market that has demanded and funded it. The coverage still isn’t as equal to what the neighbor P5 school is getting, but again, these companies are trying to cater to ($$$) the ($$$) bigger ($$$) fanbase ($$$).

Also, it’s not up to “the media market” to put Toledo vs. BYU on ESPN+ or league games on a Wednesday right after rush hour. That’s on the MAC.

Arguments over specifics aside, Candle’s intention is in the right. It’s his job to challenge others to promote his team and his players more, and that’s the most important takeaway out of any of this. SB 206 is far from being the piece of legislature that’s going to fix college football’s widespread issue on this subject, and it took 150 years of college football for this to be the first state to make a change like this, and it’s still not happening for another four years.

His job isn’t to figure out how, but Candle knows the importance of his voice in this discussion. It’s not Candle’s job to tell us what we already know, that the superstars of college football tend to go to bigger programs anyway. It’s also not Candle’s space on what he thinks the monetary gap between the Logan Woodsides of the world should be versus the Justin Fields of the world.

But it is sort of up to the Jason Candles of the world to have a simple, common-sense response to the possibility of his players maybe profiting off their likeness one day.


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