Paul Weir loves his job as a college basketball coach, including the obvious financial benefits tied to it.
But the third-year University of New Mexico men’s basketball coach also feels it would be wrong for the NCAA and people in his profession to continue to drag their feet and not address now the need to establish name, image and likeness rights for college athletes, opening the door for them to receive some form of direct compensation for their roles in the billion dollar industry they participate in.
“(The Journal) wrote a story about our ticket sales,” Weir told a group of reporters last week in Nevada at the Mountain West men’s basketball media summit. “We make millions and millions of dollars in ticket sales as a department. As an employee I receive (a portion) of that. People in our department do. People in our university do. Everyone is making (a portion) of these millions of dollars, and that’s just the start. What conversations are we having with student athletes by just saying, ‘Look. You get your scholarship and you get your degree. Just be happy with that.’ I don’t know if that’s the totality of the conversation.”
On Thursday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis became the latest politician to jump on board with support of legislation that would allow students participating in college athletics in his state to profit off their likeness and images.
Following last month’s passing in California of a bill mandating universities to allow college athletes to earn compensation from use of their name, image and likeness without losing eligibility, dozens of states, including New Mexico, have followed suit in expressing a desire to pass similar legislation.
The NCAA, which failed to act on the growing hot-button issue for years, is now asking politicians to stay out and let them figure it out while a working group discusses the issue.
Most coaches have publicly echoed the NCAA company line, even suggesting such a move could ruin college athletics altogether by possibly taking money being donated now that fund all sports and having it go only to high-profile football and men’s basketball players.
Weir, whoever, suggested the status quo may be comfortable for those in power, but that doesn’t make it right.
“I think it’s really hard to look past a sport with predominantly low-income African American men competing – football and men’s basketball – and they are predominantly presided over by rich white men who make a lot of money,” Weir said. “To sit here and say, ‘Let’s keep the structure in place,’ it’s pretty self-serving. … That’s the reality of it. And to the student athletes, we are saying you don’t need name, image, likeness (rights). It’s a little convenient for us to be continuing to say that when we’re not the affected population.”
TICKETS: UNM, which started a tier-system, mini-pack ticket sales promotion this week for men’s and women’s basketball, will start putting single game tickets on sale Monday.
Information on the tiered program is available online at GoLobos.com, but in essence, fans can choose a game from different tiers as part of the package. The top tier is for the three home games UNM has selected as the most valuable in Dreamstyle Arena – the Pit this season. Those include Nevada, now coached by former Lobo coaches Steve Alford and Craig Neal, New Mexico State, which has a five-game win streak vs. the Lobos, and preseason Mountain West favorite Utah State, which plays UNM on the last night of the regular season.
Select single game tickets go on sale Monday. Tickets for the Dec. 14 NMSU game go on sale Nov. 16 and the Nevada and Utah State game tickets go on sale Dec. 17.
DUCKS UP: The Lobos travel to the Pacific Northwest on Friday for a Sunday morning closed scrimmage with the No. 15 Oregon Ducks.
The scrimmage will be played at the Nike World Headquarters facility in Beaverton, Ore., and feature former Lobo Anthony Mathis, the senior shooting guard who transferred to the Ducks this past offseason after UNM appealed on his behalf to get an extra season of eligibility.
Neither Mathis, UNM nor the NCAA have said exactly why he was granted the extra season, but it was from an unspecified hardship suffered in his 2016-17 sophomore season in which he played in 10 games under former head coach Craig Neal.