LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Nobody knows how this jarring flinch by the NCAA that will soon allow athletes to profit from their names, likenesses and images will affect the landscape of college sports.

Not Nick Saban.

Not Mike Krzyzewski.

Not Mitch Barnhart nor Vince Tyra.

Not Jordan Nwora, Lynn Bowden Jr., Trayce Jackson-Davis, Charles Bassey, Dana Evans nor any local athlete who would be in line to benefit if the rules changed today.

I understand that’s a terrible way to start a column. In this case, it’s better to be terrible than wrong.

Anybody who tells you they know how this move will shake out does not know. They’re guessing, bluffing and making it up.

We’ll need time, examples, trends and actual specific guidelines before the impact can be calculated.

In an area like Kentuckiana, where fans are gaga about their college teams, and there are no major league professional teams to claim the name, image and likeness dollars, Louisville, Kentucky, Indiana and Western Kentucky are more likely to benefit than suffer.

But that’s a guess. 

On Tuesday, after decades of howling that permitting college athletes to be paid would lead to a catastrophic destruction of the NCAA model, the Board of Governors took one final whiff of public opinion, popular culture and the political climate and had a different take:

They told the leaders of all three NCAA divisions to figure something out. By 2021.

I can’t remember a bully getting taken down this quickly since Buster Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson. Less than 20 seconds ago, NCAA president Dr. Mark Emmert said a move like this would be unconstitutional.

The constitution has not been rewritten. The NCAA acted before it was thrown for another loss or pushed in the same Smithsonian exhibit with the rotary phone and 8-track tapes.

This isn’t the NCAA trying to do the right thing. This is the NCAA trying to survive. That is something I am comfortable saying.

A week ago, USA Today released its annual college football coaches salary database and revealed that at least 31 FBS head coaches will earn $4 million or more this season.

We know how much the local college basketball coaches are earning — and they’re no longer in the same tax brackets that Denny Crum, Joe B. Hall and Bob Knight were in the 1980s.

Heck, we know how much the University of Louisville is paying Bobby Petrino not to coach.

Money is not the problem. Sharing more of the money with the athletes is the problem. 

The NCAA decided that maybe it would be OK if some players pocket money from the sale of their jerseys, autographs or public appearances, especially after states like California passed legislation that green-lighted that trend.

The primary driver in this is the factor that is always the primary driver: money.

Head coaches are making three or more times what they made a generation ago. Assistant coaching salaries, especially for football coordinators, have taken a super-sized jump. Administrators have been stacked upon more administrators.

The leagues that Louisville, Kentucky and Indiana call home have developed their own television networks and vigorous marketing strategies. Even moments as benign as conference preseason media days have morphed into greater opportunities to sell products.

Corporate names have been attached to arenas and stadiums. Signage is hung over every open space to promote a business or individual willing to pay the price. 

When the action stops on the field, the action starts during timeouts with the marketing department, informing you who has paid for this break in the action.

Are we forgetting anybody here?

Just the players. 

As a parent who paid for two children to earn four-year college degrees, I will always argue that critics of the current NCAA model continue to downplay the cost and value of a fully paid scholarship. It’s hardly insignificant. Ask graduates who exited school with considerable student debt.

But the world is evolving. As relentlessly as the NCAA has insistently tried to brand its performers as student-athletes, nobody is paying today’s prices to park, eat and view games to watch Bowden or Nwora take a political science test.

The top levels of Division I men’s basketball and FBS football are professional sports. Have been for several decades. The days of players relaxing during their offseasons or not reporting for conditioning work five days a week are over.

Schools have improved the dormitories, training tables, tutoring staff, traveling arrangements and other perks available to Division I athletes.

This is the next step. An inevitable step. A necessary step.

And, until we get more specifics and examples, it is a step into the unknown, regardless of what anybody tries to tell you.

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