Donald De La Haye Is Right, But Not for the Reason You Think

Why The NCAA Rulebook Needs a 21st Century Re-Write

Donald De La Haye UCF
Donald De La Haye (YouTube/Deestroying)

Donald De La Haye is right. Unfortunately, that’s probably going to cost him his college football career.

Such is the state of the NCAA in 2017, whose apparent justification for possibly squashing De La Haye’s budding career as a 21st-Century entrepreneur is a 19th-Century concept: Amateurism.

To recap, upon being confronted by the NCAA through UCF’s compliance department, UCF’s kick-off specialist has decided to keep making videos and posting them on his YouTube Channel (which he had before he was a UCF athlete), and more importantly, keep monetizing those videos through ads, thus setting up a showdown with the NCAA – a showdown he will likely lose.

Don’t blame UCF’s compliance department – they’re the messengers. They also have probably the crappiest job in the whole athletic department for reasons such as this whole affair: Enforcing rules that, viewed in a vacuum, are B.S.

It all comes back to NCAA bylaw 12.4.4:

12.4.4 Self-Employment. [A] A Student-athlete may establish his or her own business, provided the student-athlete’s name, photograph, appearance or athletic reputation are not used to promote the business.

That’s all fine and dandy when a student-athlete could open up a soda fountain in the 1960s, but in 2017, businesses are inseparable from the name, appearance and reputation of the people running them. If you don’t believe me, go ask Mark Zuckerberg.

Donald De La Haye is taking NCAA on head-first:

I’d like to see Donald De La Haye win this, but he won’t. The NCAA is a monopolistic cartel and they eat cases like this for breakfast. Because amateurism!

[Sidebar: If the NCAA adopted the Olympic model for amateurism, which makes somewhat more sense, this wouldn’t be a problem.]

The reason I think Donald is right lies not in the fact that he’s taking on the NCAA’s ridiculous amateurism rules, a fight he will most assuredly lose. He’s not stupid, either – he knows this. It also doesn’t lie in the fact that I want to see him play football for UCF until his final game of his senior year.

It lies in the fact that he is choosing a lifetime career over a short-term career.

Donald said it himself in the above video: He’s a kickoff specialist. He’s not an All-American placekicker, although perhaps he could be. He’s not a sure-fire NFL prospect, although he could – and I think should – get a shot at the show once his UCF career is over. But every year in the NFL, typically one – if any – kickers make it on a team in a try-out. Kickers have the greatest longevity of any position in the NFL, so those jobs open up perhaps once a decade, or even longer, for some franchises. Hell, Matt Prater’s heading into his 12th NFL season already.

However, Donald De La Haye is going to get a lot more long-term professional fulfillment out of being a video producer than being a kicker.

This cuts to one of the great disconnects between fans and athletes: We as fans CANNOT STAND to see someone give up something the overwhelming majority of us were never good enough to get. So when we see someone give it up willingly, we get angry. How DARE you give up playing football for YouTube! Give me a scholarship and I’ll kick footballs for nothing, you spoiled social media brat!

Oh shut up and go take a walk around your cul-de-sac. It’s his life, not yours.

The fact is, sports are something that a lot of college or professional athletes do, but it doesn’t define who they are. They want to be musicians, or app developers, or entrepreneurs, or video producers. Football is just something they’re good at that pays the bills or gets them the degree. That’s a hard thing for Joe Schmoe to handle, but it’s just a fact. I’ve seen it everywhere.

To me, Donald’s decision is not based on personal vanity or social media celebrity. His decision is fueled by his correct calculation that he’ll have a longer, more fulfilling career as a professional video producer than as a professional placekicker.

That’s maturity. The kind of maturity the NCAA should reward in its student-athletes.

This doesn’t mean Donald can’t get a try-out as a professional down the line, and perhaps even make a team, if he commits himself to it. But his chances of professional success are far greater from making placekicking tutorial videos, or becoming a sports reporter, or starting his own production company than they are from making the Jacksonville Jaguars’ practice squad.

I don’t know what’s going to happen next or when. But I do know that we cannot trust the NCAA to make the correct decision on a case-by-case basis. Nothing new there.

What I do know, because I’ve made my living in video production, is that Donald De La Haye is talented in and passionate about his craft. That craft will net him much longer-term gains than any preseason cup of coffee with the Buffalo Bills can get him. If he has to choose between a lifelong career and a maybe-possibly-one-percent-chance-it-lasts-two-or-three-years career, he’s making the right choice.

So good for him. And if he ever wants someone to look at his resume tape, I’m there – not like he needs the help though.

About Jeff Sharon 149 Articles
Jeff Sharon is the Managing Editor, Publisher, and boss around here. He graduated from UCF in 2005 and worked in the Knights' athletic department full-time from 2008-2010. He still works for UCF as a public address announcer at several sporting events and also thinks the Atlantic Sun Conference days were more fun than you realized. Follow him on Twitter at @Jeff_Sharon.