Todd Diacon addresses NCAA changes, potential payments to student athletes

Grace Springer and Sophie Young, Reporters

Kent State President Diacon updated an audience of over 300 on the university’s intercollegiate athletics budget and how changes within the NCAA impact Flash athletics.

Diacon hosted his second “Talking with Todd” live Q&A on Tuesday to discuss intercollegiate athletics. He took anonymous questions from virtual attendees about various campus operations.

Kent State plans to address changes to intercollegiate sports after the July 2021 Supreme Court decision National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Alston.

The Supreme Court decided unanimously that the NCAA was violating antitrust law by prohibiting athletes from using their name, image and likeness for marketing deals. The NCAA implemented a transformation committee to oversee the resulting changes.

Diacon previewed several changes that could be implemented in the future of Kent State athletics, including a potential Alston payment of up to $5,980 for each student athlete.

“If we were to pay the Alston payment to everyone that was eligible, that would probably cost Kent State an additional $1.5 million to $2.5 million on a $25 million budget,” Diacon said.

Diacon noted that no Mid-American Conference school has implemented the payments yet, but Kent State has already looked into potentially adding funds for these payments in the future.

“Our great athletic director Randale Richmond is developing something that he calls the Ready Flash Program,” Diacon said. “If we do decide to pay the Alston payment to our student athletes, it will be a program that requires students to engage in a series of seminars and personal training and personal finances, in name image and likeness counseling, and how to succeed after athletics.”

Kent State has recently partnered with Opendorse, an athlete marketing company, to launch the NIL NEST, “a comprehensive plan to empower Kent State student-athletes to maximize their Name, Image, & Likeness as well as enhance and protect their personal brand and gain the essential tools to navigate financial opportunities.”

The NCAA transformation committee approved more suggested changes, which are options for Kent State to consider.

There are no longer limits on how many coaches each athletic team can have. Schools can also choose to provide for student athletes by drastically increasing the number of scholarships, providing housing during breaks and paying for families to attend important events or games.

“If we were to do everything allowed by the transformation committee, it would add roughly $6 million a year to our $25 million budget, which is hard for me to fathom doing,” Diacon said.

Diacon drew comparisons between Kent State athletics and higher-budget programs at Division I Football Bowl Subdivision schools like Ohio State University.

Kent State challenges FBS schools multiple times a year to raise money for athletics. The football team made $4.5 million this year from “revenue guarantee games” with the University of Washington, the University of Oklahoma and the University of Georgia.

While larger schools have athletic programs that sustain themselves through ticket sales and media contracts, general university funds and student fees make up the majority of Kent State’s athletic budget.

“There’s an analogy here between research at Kent State and athletics at Kent State and the analogy is this: we’re competing against universities with notably bigger budgets. So I said that in athletics, our budget is $25 million a year and Ohio State’s is $220 million a year,” Diacon said, in a response to a question on deciding where to invest university funds.

Kent State is designated as an R1 research institution, a recognition for high research activity. It is one of few universities in Ohio to reach this designation, along with Ohio State, the University of Cincinnati, Case Western Reserve University and Ohio University.

“We just have to be good stewards of the university’s monies, invest in very strategic fashions. We’re not going to be able to compete with the schools that have budgets in athletics and research that is 10, 20 times bigger than our budgets,” Diacon said.

“We have to be best at what we can be best at.”

President Diacon will hold the next “Talking with Todd” live Q&A on Thursday, Nov. 3. He plans to discuss the university budget.

Grace Springer and Sophie Young are reporters. Contact them at [email protected] and [email protected].