USA TODAY International Edition

‘ Boz’ says NIL might ruin sports

- Paul Myerberg

“It’s going to change college football from what college football has always been. Now it’s just going to be another semipro endeavor.” Brian Bosworth Former Oklahoma linebacker

Rule changes related to name, image and likeness have the potential to “ruin college football,” said former Oklahoma linebacker Brian Bosworth, who during his three seasons with the Sooners captivated a national audience unlike few players in the modern history of the sport.

“It’s going to change college football from what college football has always been. Now it’s just going to be another semipro endeavor,” Bosworth told USA TODAY Sports.

“When you put people around that now are incentiviz­ed by the money, it takes the passion of the path of success and the dream that you’ve always had as a football player and an athlete and puts it not in the back seat, it puts it in the trunk or maybe even the trailer that you’re dragging behind you. Because someone else is driving the ship. Someone else is making the decision for you.”

A three- year starter and the only two- time winner of the Butkus Award as the nation’s best linebacker, Bosworth made national headlines with the Sooners for his play, his hair and his very public criticism of the NCAA.

This attention came to a head in the final days of his college career, when Bosworth wore a shirt referring to the NCAA as an acronym for “National Communists Against Athletes” while on the sideline for the 1987 Orange Bowl, a game he missed following a positive test for performanc­e- enhancing drugs.

“The adulation that I got became so overwhelmi­ng that each week I spent more time thinking about what I have to do ( to get to) the next step in the evolution of ‘ The Boz,’ and it created a character that was not part of the team,” Bosworth said.

“I can look back on that now in clarity because I’ve seen the damage of what I did to our school and to the image of Oklahoma football, and that was not my intention, not my intention ever when I was doing it.”

Bosworth spent multiple seasons as one of the most recognizab­le figures in all of sports yet was unable to capitalize on his popularity, unlike current student- athletes given access to financial compensati­on as a result of legislatio­n related to name, image and likeness. While legislatio­n varies by state, NCAA athletes now are able to sign third- party endorsemen­t deals and service contracts.

The endorsemen­t deals signed by hundreds of college football athletes – some totaling in the hundreds of thousands of dollars – carry significant risks for programs, teams and the players themselves, Bosworth said.

One of the risks, he said, is in the potential that mammoth, six- figure endorsemen­t deals can cause dissension inside of locker rooms.

“The other guys that are on the team that are working hard are getting zip. Unless the quarterbac­k who’s making $ 1 million is going to divvy up his endorsemen­t deals with the offensive line, the receivers and his running backs that are helping him be a marquee guy, I think it’s a recipe for disaster.”

Another factor is the pressure these deals can place on younger athletes already juggling a full plate between team activities and classwork.

“I can attest to this,” said Bosworth. “We’re immature as hell when we’re 18, 19, 20, 21. We don’t know what we’re doing. Our brains aren’t fully developed. It’s hard enough just being a normal athlete including being a student.

“Now you’re going, ‘ I’ve got to be the poster boy of the team.’ The pressure on these kids is going to be tremendous.”

After leaving Oklahoma in 1987, Bosworth signed the largest rookie contract in NFL history with the Seahawks and inked commercial, book, clothing and shoe deals worth more than $ 1.1 million, according to contempora­ry reports.

If that sort of money had been available while at Oklahoma, “There’s no way I could’ve handled that,” he said. “Obviously, I couldn’t handle it. It would’ve certainly consumed more time than it would’ve been worth because my value on the field would have diminished greatly. I just don’t see that you can balance both of them at that young age. Just given the load that’s on our plate.”

A better option for compensati­ng football players, according to Bosworth, would be for schools to construct a yearly trust for student- athletes – Bosworth suggested $ 10,000 annually – that will be paid out after a player exhausts his eligibilit­y, but only as long as he stays with the program and doesn’t transfer.

If he meets the standard for eligibilit­y, the player would receive those funds, assistance with job placement and help managing the emotional distress that can often come with the end of a college career.

“There needs to be compensati­on for the players but that needs to be a group effort,” said Bosworth. “That’s a give and take.”

The current marketplac­e for compensati­on “is just a take and take,” he said. “It’s a money grab, is what it is.”

 ?? KEVIN JAIRAJ/ USA TODAY SPORTS ?? Former Sooners LB Brian Bosworth, “The Boz,” was the most recognizab­le football player for a time but was unable to monetize his popularity as an NCAA student- athlete.
KEVIN JAIRAJ/ USA TODAY SPORTS Former Sooners LB Brian Bosworth, “The Boz,” was the most recognizab­le football player for a time but was unable to monetize his popularity as an NCAA student- athlete.

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