Hazy NCAA ruling could mean Duke basketball forever reigns supreme

(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) /

The specifics are still to come and will be of great consequence, but the wheels are now officially in motion to make the richest blue-blood even richer on the court, which should give goosebumps to Duke basketball fans everywhere.

If the NCAA’s Tuesday ruling concerning student-athletes’ rights to profit off their names, images, and likenesses plays out to the extreme it realistically could — a proposed tax-code change from lawmakers might ensure it will — then the Duke basketball program stands to bask in the benefits from having one of the most outrageously wealthy fanbases.

Nerdy graduates — some of whom earn millions or even billions and many of whom are lifelong Duke basketball supporters who annually cut five-, six-, or maybe even sometimes seven-figure checks just to lay claim to Cameron Indoor Stadium’s best seats for 20 or so home games — may have the opportunity to dictate the success of the program well beyond the future retirement of Mike Krzyzewski.

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According to ESPN’s Dan Murphy, “The NCAA’s top decision-makers voted unanimously Tuesday to start the process of modifying its rule to allow college athletes to profit from their names, images, and likenesses ‘in a manner consistent with the collegiate model.'” The plan is for the new rule to go into effect in January 2021.

And while, as Murphy put it, “The board members said in a release Tuesday that all changes should make sure student-athletes have the same opportunities to make money as all other students, maintain the priorities of education and the collegiate experience, and ensure that rules are ‘transparent, focused and enforceable’ and do not create a competitive imbalance…and that the NCAA would likely stay involved as the group in charge of regulating future endorsement deals,” the United States Congress may ultimately dictate the way this all goes down.

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A proposed bill, which could also go into effect as early as January 2021, per Murphy, is an attempt “to change the federal tax code in a way that would likely force the NCAA to give all student-athletes the right to sell their names, images, and likenesses,” potentially to the degree that some legislators reportedly want to see: an unrestricted market.

If unrestricted, then Duke will almost certainly be the ultimate winner, plain and simple. If strangleholds on five-star freshmen’s possible earnings had already been extinct before last season’s most popular figure across all college sports, Zion Williamson, announced his decision to leave after one season for the riches of the NBA, then there is no doubt that not only would Nike have still signed him to a mega shoe deal had he stayed at Duke, but a Duke grad such as Melinda Gates (wife of Bill) might even have pitched in a few extra million for him to wear Microsoft gear with the understanding he would stick around in Durham for four years.

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Four years of Zion because certain Duke basketball fans are able to essentially pay more than NBA franchises? Unspoken promises to all the most coveted recruits from here on out that it would be in their best interests financially to attend Duke and stay for four years?

As a lifelong Duke basketball fan, I not only welcome such reality, but I am now also extremely thankful for the years of fake classes at UNC that might have contributed to the school’s hoops-loving graduates not earning nearly as much on average as Dukies — and thereby not having as much to offer players in terms of endorsement deals.

Thanks for finally taking the first step, NCAA, even if it was a relatively small one and about 50 years late. Make sure it happens as it should, lawmakers, even if it means disbanding or penalizing a stubborn, greedy NCAA. Thanks in advance to all those involved for doing the right thing. And long live the supreme reign of #TheBrotherhood.

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