The Boise State Broncos just banked 6.24 milllllliioon dollars. In a 6-year sponsorship deal with Nike that covers all Boise State sports, the Broncos will receive $6 million worth of product and equipment through 2017 (contract details here: IDAHOSTATESMAN 4/17).
Boise State’s popularity has grown rapidly ever since its football team’s miraculous win over Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, which provided the first legitimate argument about whether or not a team from a non-BCS conference could ever compete for a National Championship. Since that win, Boise State’s stock has been skyrocketing, earning its football program several prime-time national broadcasts, and even earning the cover of one of the nation’s most popular video games. Its programs atmospheric level of clout in the world of college athletics has risen so rapidly over the past five seasons that the Broncos jumped at the opportunity to change conferences TWICE!
So what do national broadcasts, video game covers and new conferences all have in common? I hope that was a silly question. It’s Moneeyyyy. In the facilities arms race that has invaded college sports over the past two decades, athletic departments cannot pass up an opportunity to earn another check to keep their programs in the hunt. The $6 million and change that will be distributed to the university by Nike over the next five seasons is a 400% increase from the team’s previous endorsement deal with Nike. And while I commend the BSU athletic department for negotiating such a lucrative contract for its university, the array of bonuses written into the contract that are based on athletic performance raise some serious issues in regard to amateurism.
In the contract, $165,000 in bonuses is based on the program’s performance in football and men’s and women’s basketball. This conflict of who is actually earning those bonuses is obvious, and raises just another argument for those in favor of compensating student-athletes. These types of “performance based” bonuses are quite common in coaching contracts, but I guess I didn’t expect to see it in the program’s apparel endorsement.
While reading these bonuses initially triggered one of my more overstated and underwhelming rants on amateurism, I gave it some more thought and came up with this.
There will no doubt be plenty of ideas for where to allocate those bonuses (should they achieve them). If I were crafting this contract on Nike’s end, I would stipulate that all of the bonuses earned for on field performance be allocated based on the needs and desires of the athletes who earn them. If the Broncos men’s basketball team earns the potential $70,000 in bonuses for winning its conference, conference tournament and NCAA tournament next season (place your bets), the players should decide if they want to receive apparel or merchandise from Nike, or if they would like plane tickets to take a team trip. For the dedication and commitment that student-athletes show in order to earn such bonuses, some new kicks and a duffel bag hardly seem like an improper benefit.
The extreme argument that these players deserve a paycheck is not something I am trying to support here. I simply believe that if performance based bonuses exist, the bonus should be rewarded to those who are performing.