There You Go Again, NCAA

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As a rapper once said, “WOOP-WOOP! THAT’S THE SOUND OF THE NCAA!”

Okay, so maybe it wasn’t exactly like that. Maybe I misheard it. But NCAA president Mark Emmert and his organization are back again, and at this point, they really do deserve entrance music for the work they do. My personal suggestion: the Jaws theme, but that’s neither here nor there.

You know very well about Emmert and the NCAA, but someone you may not be familiar with is Donald De La Haye.

Donald De La Haye is the kickoff specialist for Central Florida University (UCF, for short) and he is going into his sophomore year of college. He appeared in every game for the Knights last season and even racked up three tackles on special teams. That, though, is not what’s important about his story.

What is important is that De La Haye has a YouTube channel. His videos range from the humorous (a parody of quarterbacks in their everyday lives) to the useful (how to kick an onside). His videos are occasionally profane but otherwise harmless, and he’s obviously doing something right; because he has reached over 10,000 all-time views on his channel (2.7 million, to be exact), he can monetize off of it by putting ads at the beginning of his videos. I must admit that I did not know that until this story came out, but those rules are very significant in De La Haye’s case. He has truly turned his internet prowess into a business, and three of his videos have over 200,000 views. He is a marketing major, and his YouTube practices actually pertain to what he wants to do with his life, as his chances of making the NFL are slim to none.

But remember when I told you that he was able to make money off his channel? Well, the feds were watching, and they clearly didn’t approve of his YouTube hi-jinks.

Because of De La Haye’s profitability, UCF has decided to make him choose between football and YouTube. To be clear, that may not be exactly the case, but UCF, as a way of preempting the NCAA, has asked him to stop making money off of his videos. His reasoning for having a YouTube channel and trying to turn a profit on it is simple: his family moved from Costa Rica to Port St. Lucie, Florida, when he was a child, and even though he is getting a full scholarship to play at UCF, he still needs to help his family pay their bills. Terrible motives, right?

Of course, the NCAA has put the kibosh on that under their infamous “amateurism rules”. If De La Haye had not made money on his videos, he would be in the clear, but because he is profitable, the school had to tell him to stop. Side note: don’t be so quick to kill the UCF administrators for this. I’m sure some of them think this is ridiculous, too, and they know that everything is better if the NCAA is not involved.

Now, before you hit on the “yeah, but he’s getting a full ride to kick a football” argument, consider this: if it were anyone else, i.e. someone not on scholarship to play a sport, they would be able to cash in on their virality. Instead, because he’s on scholarship and an “amateur”, he can’t stand to profit. That’s nice; he’s actually being penalized for playing a sport.

In case you couldn’t tell, this is a story that really bothers me. Unfortunately, it kind of hits close to home, too.

I have a good friend from my high school named Miles Franklyn. He’s really good at soccer. So good, in fact, that he showed up twice on SportsCenter’s “Top 10 Plays”…. in the span of a week. So good that he’s going to play at the collegiate level for Syracuse University next fall. And, quite possibly, so good that he’s going to have to shut down his YouTube channel.

Miles and a couple of his friends recently decided to start an enterprise called “11th Street Media”. 11th Street, as many of us commonly refer to it, takes a couple of different forms; there’s the popular YouTube channel, which has just over 10,000 lifetime views (HERE COMES THAT MUSIC AGAIN), as well as 11th Street Radio, which makes SoundCloud playlists for certain occasions, like this one they did for Valentine’s Day. The YouTube channel releases videos chronicling the daily lives of him and his friends, and they literally could not be more innocuous; even curse words are censored. Virtually everyone in the senior class was in one of the videos at some point or another. From personal experience, I also remember the 11th Street people selling shirts outside of school; how much money they made is none of my business, but several of my friends bought the shirts and were happy with them. Miles and his friends, simply put, are my type of people; they say they want to do something and then they actually go out and do it. A truly novel concept.

Now, go back over that last paragraph. Assuming Miles goes through with his commitment to play soccer at Syracuse, he’d have to give up the YouTube videos and the shirt-selling. And if he put he and his friends’ playlists for sale on iTunes or Spotify, they would be illegal, too. So here you have someone taking the initiative to make something that people like and turn a profit off of it (the nerve!), and the NCAA wants to put a stop to it. Literally anyone at Syracuse, or just about any other institution, who doesn’t play a sport can do that. But he can’t. And Donald De La Haye can’t, either.

This is not something that would ever happen in the real world. But here’s the thing: the NCAA isn’t anything like the real world because it isn’t operating in lockstep with reality. While there probably was a time when their antiquated amateurism model made sense, it doesn’t anymore. The NCAA, even though it’s still a not-for-profit organization despite making a hair under $1 billion in revenue last year, can no longer justify paying coaches exorbitant salaries without at least giving the players something.

And you would figure that because the players aren’t compensated, they would be able to take advantage of their popularity (or, in De La Haye’s case, create their own popularity). But that’s illegal, too, and at this point, it seems as though the NCAA is hell-bent on making sure its athletes don’t get a fair share of its burgeoning profits.

Some of the defenders of the NCAA and UCF in this matter will tell you that UCF is not a Power 5 school and does not see nearly the revenue that schools in the Division I major conferences do (and therefore, that somehow justifies what’s going on here). Let me remind you that UCF’s football coach, Scott Frost, is making $1.7 million per year through 2020. If UCF is losing money, maybe that’s why. I don’t know.

And, without the players, there literally would be no NCAA. It would be perfectly reasonable for the institution to make these counter-YouTube rulings if it was paying its players, but it is simply unreasonable to expect players to abide by amateurism rules when they’re not playing under contract. Any reasonable person would say that players should be able to make money off themselves even if they aren’t being directly compensated. These archaic rules, made at a time before paying coaches seven-figure salaries was a rule and not an exception, simply need to go.

Until they do, though, you probably won’t be seeing Daniel De La Haye, Miles Franklyn, and their YouTube videos anytime soon.