Kelly Gramlich could not believe the headlines and articles she came across Tuesday morning while preparing for her afternoon radio show on WCCP-FM 105.5 The Roar in Clemson.
One article after another depicted the end of the college model as we know it following Monday’s Supreme Court ruling that the NCAA violated the antitrust law by limiting education-related compensation for its student-athletes.
“The NCAA’s business model would be flatly illegal in almost any other industry in America,” Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote.
Gramlich disagrees with Justice Kavanaugh and said the NCAA or college athletics is not like any other business – it is unique.
Though she agrees the NCAA needs to update and fix its current model, Gramlich—a former basketball star at Clemson—does not see the NCAA and the collegiate model the same way Kavanaugh sees it, nor all the columns and stories that seemed to be celebrating the end of amateurism as we all know it to be.
“I am a huge fan of NIL. I think the ability to profit off your likeness is a good thing. By all means, go for it if you can do that,” she said to The Clemson Insider. “However, if amateurism is truly dead then I am terrified for women’s athletics because that is going to be a huge issue.
“There are a lot of benefits to amateurism. Amateurism is just not the big bad Bogeyman. I am someone who has really benefited from amateurism in that context, whereas you are playing for a school, and you are not generating revenue. But they are paying for your tuition, plus many other things like room-and-board, resources, food and all of that to attend that school and play for that school.”
Gramlich played at Clemson from 2011-’14, as she set the Tigers’ single-game record for three-pointers made. Besides her work at WCCP, she also works as a basketball analyst for ESPN and the ACC Network, covering men’s and women’s college basketball.
She believes the number of student-athletes in which Monday’s ruling actually benefits does not represent the number of student-athletes who do not make money for their institution. If Justice Kavanaugh and others have their way and end amateurism, it is going to be the non-revenue sports and student-athletes that do not bring in any money that will be hurt.
“They do not make money for their institution, but they benefit tremendously,” Gramlich said. “These institutions, it is their job, their goal, their purpose is to be an institution of higher learning and to help young people have opportunities to further themselves through education and sports, then amateurism can’t be dead.
“Like I said, I am a huge fan of NIL. To say that the NCAA overall is an exploitive institution is just not correct by any means and you just don’t know the full picture.”
Gramlich asks that everyone try not to look at Monday’s ruling from just a football or men’s basketball perspective. She says she could argue that maybe three players on a men’s basketball team and maybe 25 to 30 players on a football team would want amateurism to be over.
“If amateurism is over then maybe you are talking about pay-for-play and I don’t think anybody wants that,” she said. “I don’t think student-athletes want to be treated like employees. I don’t think you want something to become a friable offense, or you want to pay taxes or anything like that.
“I think we have to be very clear when we talk about NIL being the death of amateurism. I do not think that is the case at all. I think the NIL is something added on to this model, but I don’t think we need to completely blow up the current model.”
Granted each school is different in what they offer a student-athlete under their scholarship. What Gramlich received at a Power 5 school like Clemson might be different than what a Group of 5 or FCS athlete might receive with their scholarship.
For instance, Gramlich said she received a laptop, free tutoring and academic advisement, team issued apparel, books and of course a free education.
“I always joke, with the academic assistance Clemson gives you—and it is all above board—I am talking about the academic advisement and tutoring, I don’t know how you could not succeed in the classroom,” she said.
In all, Gramlich said her scholarship—counting tuition, meals, room-and-board, and health care—was probably close to $100,000. And that is not really counting the nice hotels and charter buses and planes they used for road games.
“I think we have to be careful. We can’t get too blindsided and obsessed with football, which yes, makes all the money and I completely get that,” she said. “But these guys also get the exposure to the (NFL), they get incredible training, they get incredible guidance, they get incredible resources, they are getting an education and if they want to make additional money than name, image and likeness is there. That is awesome, they should go for it.
“But if we are just looking at football, which is a small percentage of student-athletes as a whole. I thought I saw where (ACC Commissioner) Jim Phillips said there are 10,000 student-athletes in the ACC alone. How many of those are not football players? The system is in place to provide opportunities to men and women in a variety of sports and it is not in place for football.”
Gramlich feels the best solution is to not eliminate amateurism, but maybe figure some other way to make sure the non-revenue student-athletes are also truly being taken care of.
“Do we need a separate entity for football? Perhaps,” she said. “If this truly gets out of hand, then that is fine. But we can’t look at the current model and say, ‘We are only going to make decisions on behalf of what would benefit football players and not every football player.
“How many football players will actually make money? Or let us say you make a certain amount of money if you are a starter or whatever. Then are you going to pay them and pay for their schooling? It just gets crazy. These are still academic institutions. So, I think the main thing is we can’t make every decision just thinking about a small percentage of football players.”