Ohio State Will Get Richer Off Name, Image, Likeness Rules

Size of Columbus market, status of Buckeye football with further benefit OSU
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It's understandable why Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith always sounded a bit leery of the coming wave of compensating college athletes for use of their name, image and likeness.

Smith is a career lifer in athletic administration, and with his annual compensation north of $2 million annually, it's been a very good life.

But if you're an Ohio State football fan, life is about to get much, much better because of name, image and likeness compensation.

With Smith and OSU president Michael Drake intimately involved in the committee that Wednesday recommended green-lighting pay for athletes to profit off their celebrity -- likely not until the 2021-2022 season -- the Buckeyes already-sizable advantage over their Big Ten brethren grew noticeably larger.

Columbus is the largest metropolitan market in the league without an MLB, NBA or NFL team whose players would be competing with Ohio State players for advertising endorsement opportunities.

Yes, Columbus has professional hockey (admit it, you didn't know that, right?), but Chicago Detroit, Minneapolis, Washington D.C. and New York City offer ample bigger names for advertisers to align with than any college football or basketball player in those respective markets.

Michigan State, Wisconsin and Nebraska are located in capital cities, but none are close to the size of Columbus.

Likewise, the celebrity of OSU players throughout the state rivals or exceeds that of almost any professional athlete in Ohio now that LeBron James has moved to Los Angeles. Not even Baker Mayfield or Joe Burrow -- No. 1 overall NFL draft picks in Cleveland and Cincinnati, respectively -- have the state-wide reach of OSU's Justin Fields or whoever follows him.

It's not inconceivable to think that perhaps 15 or more Ohio State football players per-season will get endorsement deals of some sort in excess of $1,000, some probably as high as $10,000 or more.

Last year, it's likely Fields, J.K. Dobbins, Master Teague, Chris Olave, K.J. Hill, Austin Mack, Wyatt Davis, Garrett Wilson, Tuf Borland, Jeff Okudah, Malik Harrison, Damon Arnette, Robert Landers, Zach Harrison, Davon Hamilton and Chase Young all could have had endorsement deals with restaurants, car dealers or anything and everything in between.

Ryan Day is already crushing the recruiting competition in the conference without that trump card to play.

How do you think he's going to do with it in his arsenal?

OSU has already won an unprecedented three consecutive outright Big Ten football titles.

Columbus will offer Day's future players more endorsement opportunities than any other school in the league and those opportunities will pay more top-to-bottom than any other similar offerings.

Is that going to hurt Ohio State, or help?

It's already been true that OSU, while in the same league competitively as everyone else in the Big Ten, has operated in a much different league financially.

Its annual athletic revenue of $200 million-plus is roughly twice or more than twice that at Purdue, Northwestern, Rutgers and Maryland.

Last season, Wisconsin played OSU for the Big Ten championship in football.

That creates the impression the Badgers and Buckeyes are on equal footing.

But when the NCAA allowed schools to return spring sports athletes on scholarship for 2021 if it so chose, Ohio State quickly agreed to pay that cost.

Wisconsin declined the option because it could not afford the cost, which in OSU's case came to less than a $1 million additional commitment.

That's how tight the athletic budgetary margins are everywhere in the league except Ohio State.

Whatever the NCAA will do with name, image and likeness compensation won't change that.

It will only make things better for the Buckeyes.

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