SportsJam with Doug Doyle: Student Player Founder Zach Segal

May 17, 2020

Student Player is a centralized crowdfunding platform where fans can contribute towards sponsoring NCAA student athletes
Credit studentplayer.com

While College athletics are on hold right now because of the coronavirus pandemic, some major decisions are still looming when it comes to paying college athletes for their name, image and likeness.

California and Colorado have already passed laws that take effect January 2023 that essentially create an open market for student athletes to be able to benefit from their name, image and likeness.  New Jersey and New York are strongly considering similar possibilities.

Zach Segal, a graduate of Brown University and NYU Law School, is the found of Student Player
Credit forbes.com

The next guest on SportsJam is Zach Segal, the founder of Student Player, a centralized crowdfuding platform where fans can contribute, today, towards sponsoring NCAA student athletes.

Practicing social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic,  Segal joined the show from his home in Denver, Colorado.

Segal is a graduate of Brown University, NYU Stern School of Business and NYU'S School of Law.

"This has been a subject that's been on my mind for years since I was in college and when California passed the Fair Pay to Play Act in October it set off a lightbulb.  Immediately it was an aha moment that this is happening, it's inevitable, there's no way to exclude California schools from the league which the NCAA was threatening to do and so I started thinking what's the best way to do this that gets the fans involved, gets them engaged and also provides compenstation opportunities to the athletes in a quick and easy manner so they can still have time to be students and focus on their studies.  It was that combination of factors, attending law school and being able to read the California law and be comfortable with it, what it said and meant, gave me the confidence to move forward and get the site up (studentplayer.com) and running."

Segal, who grew up in New York but went to high school at St. George's School in Montreal, says the mission of Student Player is twofold:  First, give student athletes the ability to focus on their education and the sport they love, while secondly, democratize the recruitment provess by empowering fans and alumni in the formation and development of college sports teams.

Compensation Map from Student Player
Credit studentplayer.com

"There are over 500,00 student athletes in the United States.  We plan to sponsor them all."

Much of the controversy over college athletes getting paid focuses on exactly what players and what sports get compensated and is there a fair distriibution.  

"I think the important thing here is to remember that student athletes, and this is according to both my belief as well as the NCAA's, are students first.  So me the important thing is not the everyone gets compensated equally or that decisions be made on how much revenue a sport generates but that every student has an equal opportunity to benefit from their name, image and likeness.  Now equal opportunity does not mean equal dollars.  There are going to be some basketball players and football players who make more than others on the tennis or soccer team, but conversely there may be a soccer player with a large social media following who makes more for their name, image and likeness than a football player on the championship team.  It will be exciting to see what happens, how it gets divided amongst players on revenue-generating sports and non revenue-generating sports but to me the most important thing is that everyone gets the same equal opportunity."

How does Student Player work?

"We were worried that a few wealthy boosters or corporations would essentially control recruiting by dictating where they would sponsor athletes at which schools.  And that did not seem very appealing to us. So we created a centralized crowdfuding plaform where every fan can have a voice in the process by contributing to whatever they feel comfortable contributing towards a given school, team and in some cases, position.  So if you're a fan of Syracuse, but not a fan of your current point guard, you can contribute five dollars, ten dollars, a hundred dollars through studentplayer.com and allocate that towards the starting point guard at Syracuse in the following year.  You don't know who that point guard will end of being but you do know that eveyone considering where to attend college next year will go to studentplayer.com and look at the comparitive funding totals for players and positions at universities.  Every fan contribution will count will get noticed through a central platform like studentplayer.com."

Segal says New York and New Jersey are two states that are studying various scenarios to compensate college athletes.

"New Jersey and New York have this on their radar screen.  Of course, the coronavirus has become top of mind for everyone, but New York had an interesting proposal where students athletes would also benefit not just from their name image and likeness but from revenue generated by the schools and by the ticket sales.  That would go even further than the laws in Colorado and California and the presumptive law in Florida."

The former Ultimate club player at Brown University talked more about Florida's presumptive law.

"The Governor has yet to sign it even though he has indicated his support for it on numerous occasions.  That bill has passed through Florida's Senate and House and is only awaiting his signature before it becomes law.  What's especially interesting about that law is that it takes effect July 1, 2021.  So that means that an athlete who is starting school in the fall of 2021 in Florida will be able to benefit from their name, image and likeness and go out and get sponsorships deals.  If Florida is the only state to alllow their athletes to get sponsorships deals, you can imagine that the top prospects are going to limit their search to Florida schools.  That we be a very unbalanced athletic season for the NCAA."

College championships may not be the deciding factor in a college athlete's choice of where he or she want to go to school
Credit studentplayer.com

Segal says time is running out so he expects more decisions to be made soon.

"I think the benchmarks to look out for are transparency.  And if you're a fan of a given college or given team, the thing to look out for is your rival having lots more contributions than your team.  That's what's going to make the difference I think for some players.  There's going to be many who pick schools based on a variety of factors but like you mentioned earlier how Pat (Cavanaugh) said how some athletes could really benefit from the monetary compensation.  I think there's going to be a set of athletes that essentially prioritize sponsorship opportunities when picking where to go to school."

To find out more about Zach Segal, click above to hear the entire SportsJam podcast.