• College football's stars should take advantage of the NCAA's precise wording—"making a YouTube video—and even making money off of it—is not a violation"—and cash in on the viewership awaiting on YouTube.
By Andy Staples
July 31, 2017

The people at NCAA headquarters are sick of being the villains every time a story like Donald De La Haye’s pops up, and they tried to fight back Monday night. They tried to remind everyone that this is the softer, gentler NCAA.

To the true believers in Indianapolis, De La Haye made a choice. He didn’t have a piece of his likeness restricted by a cartel of universities that have colluded for years to cap the price certain people can be paid for being good at sports. He could have kept making his YouTube videos. He could have kept making money off the pre-roll commercials that run before them as long as he left out of them a fairly prominent piece of his identity—kickoff specialist for the University of Central Florida football team.

De La Haye refused, probably because he realized this could make him a bigger name than kicking off for UCF ever could. Much of the public has turned against a system that doesn’t have rules in place to punish Baylor for ignoring reports of sexual assault and may not be have rules in place to punish North Carolina for years of sham classes. The NCAA is probably about to break out the whooping stick on Ole Miss for providing a loaded Honda CRV’s worth of extra benefits to multiple players across multiple years. That’s all the schools have empowered the NCAA to do, really. It can bust people for free meals, free hotel rooms, some extra cash and not much else. De La Haye chose to stand up to an organization hardly anyone wants to defend, so he’ll probably garner quite a bit of sympathy and possibly some donations on his GoFundMe page.

Let’s be clear. The NCAA did not declare De La Haye ineligible and strip the junior of his football scholarship. UCF officials did. (Because they knew the NCAA would have declared him ineligible.) They didn’t want to get penalized for playing De La Haye. The NCAA very much wants you to know that the NCAA didn’t do this to De La Haye. It was the mean old schools—which, of course, run the NCAA.

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But look closer at that NCAA statement. There’s an opportunity here if some of the best players want to take it. There is money to be made, and it likely can be made while still playing for a college team. The NCAA’s PR flacks just gave you the instructions on how to cash in and still keep playing.

Contrary to misconceptions, making a YouTube video—and even making money off of it—is not a violation of an NCAA rule.

Penn State tailback Saquon Barkley, it’s time to start posting songs. You can choose the genre, but I personally don’t think there are enough Peabo Bryson covers on the Internet these days.

Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts, it’s time to start posting videos of your stand-up comedy act. Observational stuff will work just fine. Repeat after me: What’s the deal with airplane food?

USC quarterback Sam Darnold, it’s time to start posting new episodes of your cooking show. You’re in college, so it might be just you making Top Ramen. That’s fine.

These gentlemen should do this immediately. They should wear no team gear, and they should make no reference to the fact that they play football. They probably shouldn’t even use their own social media channels to promote their content. That should allay the fears of their athletic department’s compliance wonk.

These videos will be immensely popular. Fans of these players will flock to their YouTube pages and make the view counters spin. Why? Because this is the Internet. The people find what they want to find, and fans will want to find their favorite players.

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The players will make money*, and the NCAA won’t be able to do anything about it because the NCAA just said this is O.K. Yes, the NCAA reserves the right to review these matters on a case-by-case basis, but the organization that just got whipped in federal court by the Ed O’Bannon plaintiffs probably wouldn’t be wise to challenge a crooning Penn State tailback or a cooking USC quarterback who followed the instructions to the letter. The NCAA could claim that such an act is an effort by a player to cash in on his football fame, but Barkley singing "If Ever You’re In My Arms Again" would be far less football-related than when De La Haye explained what referees be like? The rule can’t change when applying it to a Power Five tailback rather than a Group of Five kickoff specialist. That would be grounds for a lawsuit.

*It’s quite difficult to predict how much money anyone would make, but even wildly popular videos probably wouldn’t make much relative to what, say, a Power Five football coach makes. Google pays YouTubers who monetize their videos a dollar amount per thousand views, and that dollar amount varies based on the type of video. A widely quoted figure is $7.60 per thousand views, but that number is four years old and YouTubers have recently complained of falling rates. But let’s use that number and say Sam Cooks Sauce racks up five million views. Darnold would make $38,000, which could buy him a really sweet CRV or a less loaded Pilot.

Any action by the NCAA against the players would require the NCAA to prove that the audience isn’t tuning in only for the comedy stylings of Hurts or for Darnold’s tips on creating the perfect béchamel. This would be awfully difficult. The entertainment value of the product created by most YouTube stars is highly debatable—except for the person posted below who somehow managed to channel my wife before company arrives—and that’s a rabbit hole NCAA and school officials probably should leave unplumbed.

Even if the players mentioned above feel a little too secure in their future NFL earnings to risk their eligibility over relative peanuts, one player absolutely should use this scheme to make some extra spending money. There’s no way the NCAA could penalize West Virginia quarterback Will Grier for becoming a social media star. After all, he’d only be joining the family business.


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