Lon Kruger on endorsements for college athletes: ‘Goal is to be fair’

Lon Kruger did some research in regards to college athlete endorsements.(USATSI)
Lon Kruger did some research in regards to college athlete endorsements. (USATSI)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Oklahoma basketball coach Lon Kruger did some homework before he spoke Tuesday on a Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics panel about allowing college players to be paid. Kruger said he interviewed five business owners in Oklahoma and asked them two questions.

First, if the NCAA allowed players to get endorsement money, would the businesses invest $1,000 in athletes for an hour of their time? The owners told Kruger they absolutely would regardless of the impact on their business.

Second, if the NCAA allowed it, how many athletes would the businesses invest in? The owners told Kruger the high end was 10 and the low end was six. Kruger said he was surprised by that answer.

“The goal is to be fair,” Kruger said. “Maybe we start at 2 percent or 5 percent of the student-athletes and how do we help them find their value given that the majority of student-athletes have a pretty fair deal?”

Kruger, who made $2.85 million this year, said he can understand the arguments made that athletes are exploited or undervalued.

“Certainly there are cases where that is true,” he said. “Universities are making millions of dollars off of sales and tickets, merchandise sales, sponsorship rights. No question there’s a lot of money to be made. It’s a big business. … We’re all after some middle ground where we’re fair to the student-athlete and protecting their opportunity to participate.”

Kruger said allowing college athletes to be paid would require significant enforcement measures. Doing so, he said, would require a lot of time enforcing 1 percent to 2 percent of college athletes who are paid and not on the 98 percent who “have a pretty good deal and are playing for the right reasons.”

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