Former Illini Players Getting Paid For Bobbleheads

March 04, 2015
Former Illini basketball player Roger Powell, Jr, with son and Roger Powell Bobblehead

Roger powell Jr. with the Roger Powell Bobblehead, and son.

(Rob McColley)

Wednesday night's Illinois men's basketball game against Nebraska is the season's home finale for the Illini, and the last night of the team's bobblehead promotion, which began in January. Bobbleheads are big business, and the University of Illinois had to decide if they could pay the players involved for using their images.  

The bobbleheads immortalize all five starters from 2005's Final Four team in plastic figurine 1,000 fans will receive the Deron Williams doll on Wednesday.After that, Williams bobble-heads will be available for sale to the public.

The figurines of Roger Powell Jr., James Augustine, Luther Head and Dee Brown are already on sale.

Assistant Athletics Director Marty Kaufmann oversaw the bobblehead promotion. He said the former student-athletes will profit from the use of their likenesses.

Kaufmann says each of the former players have their own agreement with the university. "$2500 for up to the first thousand sold, whether they sell or not", said Kaufmann. "After that point there is a revenue share. They get $2 each per unit. I think we each get $1.50 per unit.

Some may be surprised to learn that students athletes can be paid for anything they did while in college, even after graduation. 

Kaufman says NCAA rules don't apply to ex-players. "We definitely ran it through Compliance -- take the current hot  topics and lawsuits out if it for now -- but from the compliance issue there wasn't any NCAA compliance thing," said Kaufman.

"Hot topics & lawsuits" refers to last summer's ruling in the Ed O'Bannon versus NCAA federal class action anti-trust suit, which O'Bannon won. 

That decision will require compensation to former athletes for use of their images and likenesses. At the same time, colleges may continue to use images of current athletes -- for example, on posters, scorecards and tickets -- to promote sports programs.

According to Kaufman, all student-athletes had signed a release form, to use their image, when they were here on campus.

The difference between bobbleheads where you recognize that you need to pay people, and current student athletes - you can't absolutely pay them ... 

The subject is still sensitive, says Kaufmann, but "the last thing we wanted was for  Luther Head, or anybody, to get approval and all of a sudden, see that there's 2,000 of these things sold online, somebody's image  ... and they're not getting any money out of it? We all agree that, from our standpoint, (the University of) Illinois, that that's not right."  

In short, the use of images and likenesses for current student-athletes can't be paid. Use of images of former students athletes must be paid. But where do you draw the line between current and former?

Illinois' Director of Compliance Ryan Squire determines that a student athlete is considered "former" when "either a student-athlete would exhaust all four seasons of competition .that he's allowed under NCAA rules, or he would otherwise make himself ineligible for collegiate participation by hiring an agent, or declaring for a draft, or something along those lines."

Neither Squire nor Kaufman could say what legislation the NCAA might codify in the wake of the O'Bannon decision.  Squire said maybe Illinois could get away with selling Daron Williams bobbleheads, based on the waiver Williams signed a dozen years ago as a freshman. But he also echoed Kaufmann's sentiment: the university just doesn't think that's the right thing to do.

Story source: WILL