In the not-so-distant future, Chapman and the city of Orange might become even more intertwined. In a matter of a year or two – or even a few months – a student’s pleasant stroll through the Orange Plaza or around town may yield the familiar sight of a Panther jersey and a friendly face in a storefront window.
On Oct. 29, an email popped into Chapman Athletic Director Terry Boesel’s inbox from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Their board of governors had voted to allow Division I, II and III athletes to receive compensation through ‘use of their name, image and likeness,’ as reported by National Public Radio (NPR).
“There’s so many layers to this onion to peel back that I don’t even want to begin to think about where it ends up,” Boesel said of his reaction to the news. “As those new policies and rules come out, now we’ll have a bit better direction on how to address our coaches and athletes on what this may mean.”
This move has major implications for prominent college sports programs. All-time great collegiate athletes such as Cam Newton, Dez Bryant and O.J. Mayo have come under investigation for potentially receiving under-the-table gifts during their tenures at Auburn University, Oklahoma State University and the University of Southern California, respectively. But this ruling could ripple throughout the Division III landscape as well – and Boesel, while unsure, is already thinking about what kind of opportunities that Chapman programs could receive.
“Is there a market, to go down to the Orange Chevrolet dealer, and would they be willing to put one of our athletes in an ad or in their store window and pay them for that?” Broesel speculated. “Does the local restaurant want to put an athlete’s name and their picture in their window to advertise, ‘Hey, Chapman Athletics eats here all the time,’ and pay them $100 a month to have that in there?”
At first indication, from the words of that same Orange Chevrolet General Manager Trey Selman, that market may be too crowded for Chapman athletes to receive serious consideration from a local business. Especially in the case of Chevrolet, as Selman explained, car dealerships are extremely localized. In a chock-full Southern California with professional athletes from the Los Angeles Angels and Anaheim Ducks available, as well as a slew of Division I colleges, the chances of a dealership or another local company giving an endorsement to a Chapman athlete would be low – unless there’s a connection with the school itself.
“Having a Chapman athlete endorse the dealership probably has no value – no real value as far as generating additional sales or anything like that,” Selman told The Panther. “Now, could you still see businesses doing it anyway because they want to support the school – some kind of natural connection between that sport and the product.”
Where Chapman’s athletics may ultimately be the most impacted, in that case, is within recruiting. As Boessel described, the main worry the NCAA has in passing this rule is that major colleges could engage in bidding wars over athletes coming out of high schools, using endorsement deals as an extra stack of chips on the table. That’s something, albeit on a certainly lower-scale, that could drastically alter the future of Chapman sports.
“It could be out in the Midwest, ‘Hey look, we’re in a small college town and if you come here, we’ll be able to get you an endorsement deal that’s going to pay you $500 dollars a month,’ where you might not be able to get that at Chapman,” Boesel said.
For as expensive as Chapman’s tuition can be, that kind of extra cash could be incredibly valuable. Senior Dillon Keefe and junior Nick Garcia, of the Panthers football and baseball respectively, both described that it was extremely difficult to hold a job during the season due to the time commitment involved with their sports.
“That’s why there’s a lot of recruits that don’t come to Chapman, because Chapman is super expensive,” Keefe said. “But if people were to now give them endorsement deals, or give them money for coming there, that would be in all levels, honestly, that would be huge.”
Keefe and Garcia both said that from the perspective of a currently-enrolled athlete, extra money would obviously be a benefit. But they and sophomore Jessi Lumsden of the women’s volleyball team agreed that there’s a certain passion a Division III athlete has for their sport, a passion that places lesser importance on any kind of compensation.
“In some sense, it would be nice, especially for how expensive Chapman is. But I knew that going into it, Division III didn’t offer athletic money, so I knew what I was signing up for in a sense,” Lumsden said. “I do the sport because I love it and no amount of money could really make me play or not play, just because I love the atmosphere and the game so much.”