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How will college athletes balance short-term gains with long-term security?

Rachel Lawson (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Maybe if former Kentucky basketball players Isaiah Briscoe, Wenyen Gabriel and even EJ Montgomery this year could have had the opportunity to earn money off their name, image and likeness the way college athletes will be able to do the 2021-22 school year they would have stayed at least another year at UK rather than stay in the NBA draft.

Probably could have been the same for other players because if you play basketball at Kentucky, there are going to be financial gains for you.

But what about a sport like softball?

Kentucky coach Rachel Lawson initially said he didn’t know enough about the ruling to offer an educated response.

“Especially in today’s climate, I think the worth of an athlete has gone down significantly because everyone is sitting in their house,” Lawson said.

No doubt COVID-19 would have wiped out financial opportunities now for many athletes if they had been allowed to receive endorsements or other financial incentives.

Lawson is realistic about the limited financial opportunities that figure to be there for her players compared to basketball and football players.

“The opportunity that a softball player has from a financial standpoint, the windfall of graduating from Kentucky, doing everything the right way like meaning your time and putting time into your education – their windfall is going to be hundreds of thousands of dollars, so I think that we do a great job of academic support of explaining that to them,” Lawson said.

“And we have financial literacy programs, too, so if a kid were to skip practice to go make $1,000 or $5,000, their long-term investment is not going to be that great. It’s on people like myself to teach them the cost-benefit analysis to everything and you’ve got to sit down with every player and sit down with them individually and figure out what’s best for them anyways.

“We’re big-time long-term thinkers. That’s why so many of our kids go to med school, grad school, finishing school. You know Bailey Vick had four or five job interviews this January and was offered a job by all five of them (and announced Monday she is taking one of those jobs rather than coming back to UK for another season). So that will be a huge windfall for her moving forward.”

Lawson said her priority will remain “long-term” earnings for her players.

“Like I tell all of our student-athletes, the only true independence in this world is financial. You don’t want to suffer, make a quick buck to suffer what you could earn on the tail end. And to be honest, that’s the crux of our softball team. People say this, but we truly are academic first, softball second and sometimes that gets in the way of softball, but we would never, ever, ever, ever sacrifice a win for some of these long-term gains,” Lawson.

Not sure about you, but Lawson’s advice is something football and basketball players might need to remember going forward, too, when short-term temptation/gain might not offset what is best long term. Seems that’s why incoming UK freshman basketball player Terrence Clarke is banking on by saying no to the G League dollars to spend next season at UK.

1 comment

  1. I think that paying these athletes, or allowing money to be made off their name, image, etc. all while getting a free ride and education is bad policy, and a slippery slope. To start this nonsense now is a slap in the face of every athlete that played without a dime of money coming their way other than from Mom and Dad in years past. Most seemed to do all right. I don’t have a whole lot of sympathy for these whining super athletes of today who run around in $500 tennis shoes and text on $1,000 cell phones. I think this, If you are good enough, then play your heart out for old Alma Mater, and then go make a bundle in the pros if you can, when you can. Now that is a good deal. The rest of you, enjoy being on a full scholarship and getting a free education while playing a sport you love. After your college days are over, go get a job like everybody else has to do.

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