Clemson Tigers’ Dabo Swinney Trademarks Name, Which We Infringe Upon on Behalf of the Players

By Scott Page
dabo swinney
Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

When USA TODAY released its database of college football coaching salaries Wednesday, the explosion of paycheck increases was not the only revelation. Apparently, some college football head coaches, including Clemson’s Dabo Swinney, are trademarking their names.

With increasingly lucrative television deals between networks and the NCAA and major conferences, the college football money pie is filled with billions of dollars to go around. And in a time when everyone is getting their share except for the players, Swinney’s and others’ decision to reap even more rewards at their expense just comes off a bit self-aggrandizing and greedy.

Ultimately, the players are the primary reason why people fill the stadiums and sit glued to their televisions on Saturday – which is why NCAA officials, school administrators and coaches are shoveling in billions in the first place. So doesn’t it seem a bit unfair that the young men who take the field have absolutely no control over how their university, conference or the NCAA uses their likeness? Yet Swinney and others can, and more coaches are starting to do so.

Ohio State is in the process of trademarking Urban Meyer’s name and the phrase “Urban Meyer Knows.” The report also named Kansas State’s coach Bill Snyder and Washington’s Steve Sarkisian as coaches who are also pursuing or already have personal licensing agreements.

But compared to the those guys, Swinney’s deal is unique. It operates under Clemson’s licensing agreement with Collegiate Licensing Co., a licensing agency used by many universities. A company spokesman told USA TODAY Swinney’s deal with CLC is the only of its kind for an active coach.

Is it not enough that these guys make millions each year in salaries and bonuses? Meyer rakes in $4.6 million and Swinney deposits a smooth $2.6 mil a year.

In the USA TODAY report, Swinney’s agent Mike Brown said royalties have been minimal so far, but he’s been having discussions with a clothing manufacturer about a Swinney line of casual wear. That can only mean one thing: very soon, we will see young women wearing sweatpants with the “DABO” screen printed across the rear. Oh, and millions more in Swinney’s bank account.

While coaches are securing their rights for personal gain, players typically sign theirs away to the schools, conferences and the NCAA – all of which cash in on their on-field exploits.

One of Swinney’s players, senior cornerback Darius Robinson, is among five active players who have joined former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon and former Arizona State and Nebraska football player Sam Keller in a lawsuit against the NCAA regarding the use of college athletes’ names and likenesses. The lawsuit has put a spotlight on an NCAA release form that grants the organization and others the freedom to use their names and likenesses in any way they please.

The NCAA maintains that athletes can play whether they sign the release or not, but if coaches can take control of their image and likeness it only seems fair that players should be granted the same courtesy.

The pervading argument against players profiting from their likeness is that they are handsomely compensated through their scholarships with tuition, room and board, books, tutors, and other perks. By that logic, however, you have to ask: Are the millions in salaries and bonuses not enough compensation for coaches? Using the “they get scholarships” defense in this argument is a blatant double standard.

It really boils down to whether it’s morally and legally fair that coaches can so fully exploit the value that rests in their skills and the publicity of their likeness when the players they mentor cannot.

Scott Page is a college football writer for Follow him on Twitter, Like him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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