LAWRENCE, Kan. — Count Charlie Weis in Johnny Manziel’s corner.
“I think there are numbers of (players) that don’t have any money,” the Kansas football coach said during a news conference Wednesday afternoon.
Money — or, rather, major-college players’ inability to receive it above the table while their likenesses are marketed by their respective universities — became a hot topic again after an ESPN report came to light in which reigning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M allegedly accepted a $7,500 payment for autographs from an East Coast broker.
When asked if he’d be in favor of his players receiving stipends as a way to supplement their scholarship, the Jayhawks’ coach replied that he would be “in favor” of it.
“(The) administration doesn’t like to hear that answer — sorry, Sheahon,” Weis said, nodding to his boss, KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger, who was sitting in the back of the room at the time.
“There are a number of kids . . . you think about it, they can’t get a job. This is their job. Would I be in favor of them getting a stipend? Yes. How much, I don’t know.”
Weis admitted that logistics of who gets what and how much are extremely tricky; too much deference to the NCAA revenue sports such as football and men’s basketball, or to men’s sports over women’s sports, would likely result in legal action.
Of course, the NCAA is facing a hairy legal situation already, as a group of former student-athletes, led by former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon and former Arizona State quarterback Sam Keller, are at the head of a class-action lawsuit that seeks compensation for the use of their likenesses in highly lucrative ancillary products such as video games. The NCAA — which, along with popular gaming company Electronic Arts and the nation’s leading collegiate trademark licensing and marketing firm, Collegiate Licensing Co. (CLC), are defendants in the antitrust case — recently asked for an Aug. 22 hearing on the matter.
The NCAA also recently terminated its contract with EA, makers of the “NCAA Football” series. EA Sports had made a similarly styled college basketball game annually until 2009, when the series was discontinued.
One of the ironies of the current argument about further compensation for student-athletes is that some players have said they can’t afford to purchase the video game — “NCAA Football 14” retails for $59.99 on the PlayStation 3 — that bears their respective likeness.
“Wouldn’t it be nice to go out and buy a pizza and have the money to do that?” Weis asked.
Weis also praised Zenger and the Jayhawk brass for providing his kids everything that has been asked for within “the letter of the law.”
“I have absolutely zero complaints with anything our administration does,” the coach continued. “And I’m not saying this just because I’m the head coach. But if you’re asking me would I be in favor if we allowed schools to do it, if I would vote, I would vote, emphatically, ‘yes.'”
When asked if he would continue to play Manziel given the current allegations, Weis said he would — at least until told by his bosses otherwise.
“(Texas A&M) should go full-speed ahead … and have a backup plan ready to go,” the KU coach said. “You always have to have a backup plan. But I think the drop-off from the first guy to the second guy at that school would be rather significant.”
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org