Chip Scoggins
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Leaders of the NCAA and its largest conferences have agreed on a $2.8 billion settlement that is likely to lead to several things, including this: The official death notice of amateurism in college athletics.

Colleges will pay athletes directly. There's more to the NCAA's settlement of antitrust cases, but this landmark agreement to share revenue with athletes promises to have seismic effects.

Gophers athletic director Mark Coyle convened a meeting recently with his 19 head coaches to discuss what it all might mean for their department.

Yes, Coyle told the group, the Gophers will start paying their athletes if the new system gains approval.

Yes, that move would cost the athletic department a projected $21 million annually.

And yes, substantive changes will be necessary to make it work at Minnesota.

Though there are still more questions than concrete answers, the AD gave his coaches some clarity about the difficulties that lie ahead if this plan comes to fruition.

"Every school is going to have to make some tough decisions," Coyle said in a half-hour interview in his office.

To avoid getting mired in the legal weeds, the situation can be boiled down to this fact: Schools will be cleared to pay athletes most likely as soon as fall 2025 if the May settlement between the NCAA and Power Five conferences is approved by a federal judge.

That means Coyle must create $21 million in new money in his budget. The Big Ten's massive TV deals and millions more from the expanded College Football Playoff will generate additional money to ease the pain a bit, but Minnesota, like most schools, will have to find ways to curb spending, allocate funds differently, raise a lot more money or — most likely — all of the above.

Texas A&M athletic director Trev Alberts summed up college sports perfectly last week: "We don't have a revenue problem in college athletics, we have an expense problem."

Even the wealthiest athletic departments are grappling with how to cover this new major expense because the arms race has sucked schools into a cycle of spending to their limit. The more that revenue has increased, the more that schools have spent.

Coyle said the U's Board of Regents supports his decision to commit to revenue sharing ($21 million plus), but his bosses expect him to maintain a balanced budget.

"The financial pressure is real for a lot of people," he said. "It's real for Minnesota and real for every other school. But we're all going to have to figure out how we navigate to start doing this revenue sharing."

Details of NCAA deal

Coyle provided details and his thoughts on a few key points of what's ahead:

College leaders are waiting for direction on how this new revenue-sharing system will mix with the principles of Title IX. This is a critical piece in understanding how that $21 million gets distributed. Will schools be required to split athlete payments evenly between male and female athletes? The many Title IX-related questions likely will be answered in court.

Not every athlete on campus is guaranteed to be included in the revenue sharing. Title IX rulings will determine how money is distributed between men's and women's programs, but after that, schools will decide which of its programs receive revenue sharing and also how to distribute the money to athletes. Football is the principal driver of revenue for the Big Ten and individual schools, so it stands to reason that sport will receive a lion's share of the payouts.

Coyle said disbursement responsibility will fall to coaches or possibly a newly created position.

"What does our department look like a year from now?" Coyle said. "Do we have to hire a GM-type of person? Do we have to hire a talent acquisition person who can evaluate talent and say, 'Hey, we see Chip's ability at this. We think he's worth $100,000 in the revenue-share model. We think Paul is worth $25,000. We think Coyle is worth $5,000.' Those are all things we have to figure out."

Revenue sharing will be separate from name, image and likeness (NIL) deals and investments. Coyle said the Dinkytown Athletes collective will continue to exist to facilitate NIL opportunities for all athletes, whether they receive revenue sharing or not.

The goal, Coyle said, is for revenue sharing to create "true NIL" and eliminate pay-for-play schemes that schools are using to compensate athletes. The hope is that NIL shifts more toward its intended purpose — rewarding athletes for their marketability and popularity. As it is now, schools or collectives are offering financial incentives to athletes at other schools as an enticement to transfer under the guise of NIL.

Scholarship limits for teams are expected to go away under the new system. Football, for instance, currently is limited to 85 scholarships, women's basketball 15 and so on. Schools will be permitted to add or subtract scholarship numbers by sport. Minnesota currently supports 324 athletic scholarships. That includes equivalency sports, meaning scholarships that can be divided and shared among multiple athletes.

"When we start to figure out what our revenue-sharing model looks like, does it make sense in some sports to add scholarships? Does it make sense in some sports to decrease scholarships?" Coyle said.

The assumption throughout college athletics is that new costs of revenue sharing will prompt schools to cut nonrevenue sports. Coyle eliminated three men's programs — tennis, gymnastics and indoor track — four years ago, citing pandemic-related financial challenges and Title IX issues.

Asked if he fears schools will cut sports to shift money to revenue sharing, Coyle said, "I don't know if schools will cut sports. I do think you will see schools that cut scholarships. Fund it completely differently. Minnesota could be one of those schools. That is on the table here. I told all our head coaches — I was very honest with them, and it's the same thing I told our senior staff — we are going to have to take a hard look at how we fund our programs."

Minnesota is not alone in that regard. The most fundamental change in the history of modern college sports is on the horizon. The amateurism model that lasted for more than a century is close to extinct.