NCAA lawsuit demands NIL for famed moments. "Miracle at Michigan" up next on docket?

The college athletics governing body might have to reconsider using past promotions
Rashaan Salaam on the field at Michigan
Rashaan Salaam on the field at Michigan / CU Buffs
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When describing the current state of college athletics, the words of University of Colorado athletic director Rick George continue to ring in the head of your scribe. “It’s the wild, wild West.”

Yes it is.

The latest? Members of the 1983 North Carolina State Wolfpack national basketball champions are suing the NCAA. Led by former Utah Jazz forward Thurl Bailey, ten players from the team are asking a North Carolina superior court for compensation over what they contend is the unlawful and continued use of their NIL and publicity rights from their famed tournament run.

Remember the images of coach Jim Valvano running around the court looking for people to hug after NC State’s upset of the heavily-favored University of Houston Cougars led by future NBA superstars Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler? Four decades later, the players insist the continued display of the game on the NCAA’s YouTube channel and other outlets from the storied run has continued to generate advertising revenue for others.

Which takes this musing to the 1994 University of Colorado Buffaloes and the “Miracle at Michigan.” Buff fans will never forget quarterback Kordell Stewart launching a missile toward the Michigan end zone that was tipped by wide receiver Blake Anderson into the waiting arms of Detroit native, Michael Westbrook?

How many times have we seen that astonishing play replayed on television to promote the pageantry and excitement of college football? Keith Jackson’s infamous call on the late afternoon from the Big House in Ann Arbor? It has been shown thousands of times in the three decades since. It will forever remain one of the most cherished moments of covering Colorado for 20 years as the “Buff Guy” for Denver’s KCNC-TV, then the home of University of Colorado athletics.

You could not have asked for a more gorgeous Fall day for football in front of 105,000 fans. The lead up to the game was titillating. CU’s head coach Bill McCartney, a former Michigan assistant to Bo Schembechler, bringing a talented band of Buffaloes back to his home state and pulling off what many still consider the greatest ending ever. A gridiron classic.

Your scribe was standing only about five yards away when the miraculous happened. Ever heard a massive crowd go deafly silent in an instant? Positioned just off the field at the goal line it was surreal to experience such a large throng thwarted from celebrating what looked like a certain Wolverine victory.

Right before the improbably execution of a play the Buffs practiced often, I’ll never forget a brief but noteworthy interaction with a Colorado fan during the television timeout preceding the play “McIntosh,” screamed an intoxicated Buff fan decked head to toe in black and gold. “I drove all the way from Denver to watch this crap!”

It had been a frustrating day for the Buffs. Too many turnovers and poor execution had laid the groundwork for a disappointing defeat. The woman yelling was distraught as she leaned over the railing of the famed cathedral of college football. All I could do was shrug my shoulders with a, “I don’t know what to say” kinda look before turning around to watch the play unfold.

Once the improbably occurred, I took a quick glance back in the direction of the woman. She had fallen from the stands and was flopping around on the field like a fish out of water. Delirious with joy. The thrill of victory. How sweet it is.

Earlier this year, at a celebration of Coach Prime being named SI's “Sportsperson of the Year,” your correspondent caught up with Stewart. I asked him, “What do you think your NIL amount would have been the day after that play?” The future NFL star, with his usual wide-eye grin didn’t hesitate a bit, “About ten million.”

Who knows. This much I do know, if the 1983 basketball squad from NC State has success against the NCAA in its lawsuit? I’m not a lawyer and never played one on television but would suggest the 1994 Buffs look into compensation for their incredible moment that has generated revenue ever since for college athletic’s beleaguered governing body.

Also, the courts haven’t favored the NCAA when it comes to its past injustices. Who's to say student-athletes won’t seek backpay as well?

After all, it’s the wild, wild west.

Mark McIntosh


Mark McIntosh covered the Buffs as a sports broadcaster for KCNC-TV during the glory years of Colorado football from the late 1980’s through 2006. He also hosted the television coaches' shows of Bill McCartney, Rick Neuheisel, and Gary Barnett during that time frame.  McIntosh is an author, motivational speaker and encourages others to persevere despite life’s challenges. The father of two is an advocate for equity in education and helping displaced men build a stronger cord to their families, purpose and communities.  The Missouri native also suffers from a rare bone marrow disease, Amyloidosis, and advocates for earlier detection of the incurable disease that attacks vital organs like the kidneys, heart, lungs, and liver.