How Ohio State could impact Big Ten, College Football Playoff debate

Welcome to Before The Snap, For The Win’s college football show where we’ll break down the sport’s trending storylines, examine each week’s biggest matchups and track the College Football Playoff and Heisman Trophy races.

Going into Week 14 of this strange college football season, the top-4 teams in the country remain clear: Alabama, Notre Dame, Clemson and Ohio State. But whether or not those four teams actually make it to the College Football Playoff is a bit more complicated this year because the season is carrying on through the COVID-19 pandemic.

As of Thursday morning, Ohio State has the second-best chance to make the College Football Playoff, according to ESPN’s Playoff Predictor, at 77.4 percent — behind only Alabama with 96.4 percent.

However, the Buckeyes are 4-0 and have had two games this season canceled already, and they have two games remaining on their schedule. They’re set to play Michigan State on Saturday and Michigan the following weekend. But if either of those matchups are canceled, they won’t meet the Big Ten’s six-game threshold to be eligible for the conference championship game.

If Ohio State plays and wins its next two games, none of this will be an issue. But if it’s unable to play for a conference title — a factor the selection committee considers — can it still make the playoff?

We break down Ohio State’s position in the Big Ten and how this season’s playoff debate could be even more complex than usual.

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College football odds, picks for Week 14 in Big 12: Iowa State can make history Saturday vs. West Virginia

First impressions are important, but they aren’t permanent. As Iowa State sits on the verge of clinching a berth in the Big 12 Championship Game, I think back to its season-opening loss to Louisiana as a good example. I wasn’t surprised that the Cyclones lost that game, but my big takeaway was that they weren’t good enough to really make noise in the Big 12 Championship Game race, let alone win it all. 

Boy, was I wrong. 

Let me explain. My rationale was that while the 31-14 score was misleading — the Ragin’ Cajuns had two special teams touchdowns and one explosive 78-yard score — an otherwise evenly-played game was still a problem for Iowa State. Should the Cyclones really be going blow-for-blow with a Sun Belt opponent if they’re going to be one of the two best teams in the Big 12? 

As it turns out, though, Louisiana is pretty damn good, too, and headed towards a Sun Belt title game rematch with Coastal Carolina. The Cyclones were also missing top tight end Charlie Kolar that day. And it was the first game of 2020. Who knows with these teams sometimes?

That’s not to say that the Louisiana loss doesn’t matter now, but not when it comes to the Big 12 race. Iowa State has capitalized on a rare window by beating Oklahoma early in the year when the Sooners were more vulnerable and then inching past Texas over Thanksgiving weekend on a short week. Running back Breece Hall’s “five-star culture vs. five-star players” money quote has become the unofficial M.O. of the Cyclones’ 2020 season. Coach Matt Campbell has almost always had his team ready to play big games, but this is the first time the Cyclones have topped the Sooners and Longhorns in the same year. 

Iowa State has clinched at least a share of the Big 12 regular-season title, but hasn’t won a conference championship since 1912. To be clear, there’s still some work to be done before it can break that streak. But the Cyclones, ranked No. 9 in the latest College Football Playoff poll, are in good position to do that. It starts with the final regular-season game against West Virginia. Speaking of which …  

Picks

West Virginia at No. 9 Iowa State

Latest Odds:

Cyclones
-6.5

I’m not particularly worried that the Cyclones will look toward the end zone before catching the ball, if you catch my drift. This is a good defensive battle and the score should reflect that. If taking the under on the 49.5 point total is your thing, I don’t think it’s a bad play. The key for me is that while West Virginia’s offense has been better, it’s mostly been better at home against so-so competition. Conversely, it hasn’t traveled well and the Mountaineers would need to prove otherwise for me to ride with them. Pick: Iowa State -6.5

No. 15 Oklahoma State at TCU 

You smell that? We have a stinky line in Fort Worth,

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College football picks, odds for Big Ten in Week 14: Ohio State rolls, Wisconsin bounces back against Indiana

The Big Ten has had a theme of games getting canceled this season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That will be the case once again this week with Maryland at Michigan and Northwestern at Minnesota off due to the virus and protocols.

After being forced to cancel last week’s game due to COVID-19, Ohio State returns to the field to show that it belongs in the conversation for the College Football Playoff. The Buckeyes were ranked No. 4 in the most recent College Football Playoff Rankings behind the likes of Alabama, Notre Dame and Clemson. Ohio State just has Michigan State and Michigan to cap off the season and in actuality, Michigan State could be their final opponent of the season given Michigan’s recent COVID-19 outbreak. 

The most intriguing game on the Big Ten slate is Indiana taking on Wisconsin in the only battle of ranked teams. However, a game that looked really interesting on paper took a hit last week when Hoosiers star quarterback Michael Penix Jr. suffered a torn ACL against Maryland. Now sophomore Jack Tuttle, who has very limited experience, will take over the reins and have an uphill battle against a very tough Wisconsin team on the road. 

Let’s take a closer look at this week’s conference slate with the latest edition of Big Ten picks.

No. 4 Ohio State at Michigan State

Latest Odds:

Buckeyes
-24

Ohio State returns to the gridiron after having last week’s game canceled as a result of COVID-19. The Buckeyes will be looking to make a statement with just two more games remaining on their schedule. However, this matchup against Michigan State could be just what the doctor ordered for Ohio State. The Buckeyes possess the top scoring offense in the Big Ten while the Spartans rank dead last with just 18 points per contest. While a three-touchdown line is hefty, I have zero doubt that Justin Fields and company will put a ton of points on the board. Pick: Ohio State (-23.5)

Latest Odds:

Boilermakers
-1

Nebraska has been one of the most disappointing teams in the Big Ten this season. Despite only having one win entering last week’s game against Iowa, the Cornhuskers took the Hawkeyes to the limit and even led in the second half. Quarterback Adrian Martinez was nearly flawless as he threw just two incompletions and made plays with his legs. This game has the potential to be another close one for a Nebraska team that has lost three of their past four games by eight points or less. However, I think the Cornhuskers do just enough to steal one on the road. Pick: Nebraska (+2.5)

Polar opposites will be doing battle when Penn State takes on Rutgers. The Nittany Lions had lofty expectations entering the 2020 season and didn’t earn their first win until just this past week against Michigan. On the other hand, Rutgers has been the laughingstock of the Big Ten for several seasons, but coach Greg Schiano has really turned the

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Paying big bucks for Zoom college? Colorado universities explain why they’re not refunding tuition

Samuel Adamson, a University of Colorado Boulder sophomore from Grand Junction, is trading in his Buffs gear to become a Colorado Mesa University Maverick come spring.

The 19-year-old and his family, fed up paying a regular year’s tuition for what is anything but a regular university experience, decided to ditch his dreams of a Boulder college ride and transferred somewhere cheaper and closer to home.

With merit scholarships and in-state tuition, Adamson’s family was paying about $6,000 a semester for his engineering degree at CU. He’s looking to pay about half that at CMU, where spring courses currently are expected to be a mix of in-person, online and hybrid.

“I don’t want to be hard on the professors because I know they’re trying their best, but it’s so hard to get stuff out of the online classes that were clearly meant to be in-person classes,” Adamson said. “So many you can tell are just forced into the online format and don’t translate well. A lot of the times there are technical difficulties.

“Plus, I’m just sitting in my bedroom all day not having a college experience.”

Universities across Colorado largely have charged students the same tuition in 2020 compared to non-pandemic years — thousands to tens of thousands of dollars — for what is, arguably, the most disrupted, helter-skelter year in modern higher education history.

Colleges burdened by unrelenting COVID-19 costs in a state that poorly funds higher education are being harangued for not refunding some portion of students’ tuition. Meanwhile, members of the staff, faculty and administration whose salaries comprise a good chunk of tuition dollars are speaking out about working harder than ever while facing pay cuts and furloughs.

The nuanced situation — disappointed students and families, diligent faculty and staff, and a butchered budget — worries Colorado’s higher education chief, who believes colleges must figure out how to convey their value to students before they lose them.

“I’m not sure that students are perceiving the value of higher education in this moment of crisis,” said Angie Paccione, executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education. “Why should I go with all the risks I might be taking? What is the value of it to me if I’m not getting the experience I thought I would have?”

The value in higher education at any level, Paccione said, is earning a degree that lands its recipient a fulfilling job and maximizes their earning potential.

“It’s critical that students get a credential,” Paccione said. “Maybe not a bachelor’s, but you have to get something if you want to contribute to the economy, to the society and to your own livelihood and fulfillment,” Paccione said. “When you do, you earn a whole lot more money. One million dollars more in a lifetime, research shows.”

Paccione acknowledged most statewide institutions, hampered by restrictions on gatherings due to the novel coronavirus, haven’t been able to provide the traditional college experience of packed football stadiums, crowded lecture halls with boisterous conversations, and get-to-know-you

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Western Big Game Benefits from New Tracking Tool / Public News Service

A 2019 poll by the National Wildlife Federation found nearly 85% of respondents in New Mexico said they'd like to see increased efforts to safeguard wildlife corridors. (dog.gov)

A 2019 poll by the National Wildlife Federation found nearly 85% of respondents in New Mexico said they’d like to see increased efforts to safeguard wildlife corridors. (dog.gov)

December 2, 2020

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – A new report published by the U.S. Geological Survey includes detailed maps of Global Positioning System tracked migration routes for mule deer, elk, pronghorn, moose and bison. The tracking tool will help stakeholders, from conservation groups to transportation agencies, understand how big-game species move across the landscape.

Jesse Deubel, executive director of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, said the new study maps more than 40 big-game migration routes to provide connectivity among multiple states.

“Wildlife doesn’t recognize state borders,” said Deubel. “So cross-jurisdictional collaboration when it comes to the management of wildlife, and when it comes to the protection of key wildlife corridors, is absolutely critical.”

A poll last year found more than eight in ten residents of New Mexico and Colorado support protecting wildlife migration routes.

Deubel said in the Gila region, all kinds of species are moving between New Mexico and Arizona – but it isn’t a seasonal migration. Instead, big-game animals are looking for water.

Forest fires, many due to climate change, also affect big game migration in New Mexico. That’s another important reason to maintain habitat connectivity, according to Nicole Tatman – big game program manager with the state’s Department of Game and Fish.

“Animals will move out of an area when a wildfire is occurring,” said Tatman. “But they’ll move back into that area after the fire has gone and maybe rains have come and brought up some green vegetation that they can take advantage of.”

In addition to wildfires, drought can make finding that green vegetation harder for big-game animals, according to Matthew Kauffman, wildlife researcher with the U.S. Geological Survey.

Kauffman, the report’s lead author, said food is often absent along ancient migration corridors.

“Drought disrupts that ‘green wave,’ and makes it more difficult for animals to surf,” said Kauffman. “They still try, they do their best given the drought conditions, but they just can’t be in the right place at the right time.”

The new study builds on more than two decades of research by state wildlife agencies including GPS tracking-collar data, mapping migration routes in Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Roz Brown, Public News Service – NM

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Sun Bowl 86-year streak ends, another Big Ten game off amid COVID-19


USA TODAY

Published 4:08 p.m. ET Nov. 30, 2020 | Updated 7:04 p.m. ET Nov. 30, 2020

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USA TODAY Sports’ Paul Myerberg breaks down the latest Amway Coaches Poll.

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The Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl, played every year since Jan. 1, 1935, has been canceled amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

KFOX14/CBS4 in El Paso, Texas, site of the game that was to pit the Pac-12 against the ACC, said it confirmed the news with the Sun Bowl Association. The Stadium first reported the cancellation of the nation’s second-longest-running bowl game.

Earlier this year, when the Pac-12 announced a return to the field, executive director Bernie Olivas said the bowl still planned on pitting a Pac-12 and ACC team.

The bowl schedule for the 2020 season started at 43 games with the College Football Playoff championship game included. Seven games have officially announced cancellations – Redbox, Hawaii, Bahamas, Holiday, Quick Lane, Pinstripe and Sun. Two games were moved – the New Mexico Bowl will be played in Frisco, Texas, and the inaugural Fenway Bowl scheduled for Boston has moved to Montgomery, Alabama. The status of the Las Vegas Bowl is uncertain. If that game is not played, it would mean four games with Pac-12 tie-ins have been called off.

There will not be an appearance by Tony the Tiger this football season with the Sun Bowl canceled. (Photo: Mark Lambie, USA TODAY Network)

More: Where the College Football Playoff stands after Week 13

Minnesota-Northwestern canceled 

The Big Ten is facing more challenges with COVID-19 after a weekend when two football games were canceled due to health concerns.

Minnesota announced Monday its game scheduled for Saturday against No. 17 Northwestern has been canceled and will be considered a no contest. The Gophers had last week’s game against Wisconsin shut down. It will be the first time since 1906 the border rivals will not play.

Minnesota said team activities remained paused after being halted Tuesday. The team’s next scheduled game is Dec. 12 at Nebraska.

“The health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches and staff continues to be our main priority,” Minnesota athletic director Mark Coyle said in a statement. “The last couple of days have shown a decrease in positive cases, but not to the point where we are able to return to competition. We are disappointed not to be able to compete against Northwestern on Saturday, but we need to continue to focus on following all CDC and MDH guidelines and slow the spread of the virus.”

Michigan-Maryland game in doubt

Michigan announced Monday its football program is pausing activities because of health concerns related to presumptive positive tests.

Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh said the program has seen a rise in presumptive positive tests.

“That’s an increased number from zero,” Harbaugh said. “It was more than one. It was a few. So it was increased.”

Harbaugh declined to predict whether the Wolverines would play this Saturday against Maryland.

“This is day to day,” Harbaugh said. “When the results come

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Big Ten power rankings: Conference’s College Football Playoff hopes are now slim

COVID-19 might be the only thing that can slow down Ohio State. For Northwestern, it was one-win Michigan State.

And just like that, the Big Ten’s playoff hopes may be close to vanishing.

It’s unclear when the Buckeyes will return to the field, and even though the eye test may say yes, their resume will be a few games short than others, at least. An unbeaten Wildcats’ team probably carries the conference’s flag into the CFP, but not after losing as a double-digit favorite to the Spartans.

On to this week’s rankings:

14. NEBRASKA (1-4)

The Cornhuskers hung in there against Iowa, even tied at halftime, but ultimately lost, 26-20. After the game, the storyline was Scott Frost complaining about Iowa’s sideline clapping to throw off his quarterbacks’ snap counts. Maybe what kept Adrian Martinez and Luke McCaffrey out of rhythm was the constant rotation. Just a thought. After struggling during his time early, Martinez was 18 of 20 passing of 174 yards and also ran for a TD. (Last week: 13)

Up next: Nebraska at Purdue, 12 p.m. Saturday

College football: Michigan vs. Penn State – November 28, 2020

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh walks off the field with defensive lineman Donovan Jeter (95) after Jeter was hurt on a play in the third quarter of their Big Ten football game against Penn State at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, on Saturday, November 28, 2020. Penn State won the game, 27-17. Michigan is now 2-4 on the season. (Mike Mulholland | MLive.com)Mike Mulholland | MLive.com

13. MICHIGAN (2-4)

So much for momentum. So much for the Cade McNamara takeover at QB. The spark from the overtime Rutgers win already has burned out, as well as any life left in the season. McNamara was just 12 of 25 for 91 yards, and the tone of the game was set when Penn State marched right down the field for an opening touchdown. On the positive side, Hassan Haskins had 101 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries. By the team’s body language, the other positive is that there is only a few weeks left in this season. (Last week: 12)

Up next: Michigan vs. Maryland, 3:30 p.m. Saturday

College football: Michigan vs. Penn State – November 28, 2020

Michigan defensive back Hunter Reynolds (27) tackles Penn State wide receiver Jahan Dotson (5) in the fourth quarter of their Big Ten football game at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, on Saturday, November 28, 2020. Penn State won the game, 27-17. Michigan is now 2-4 on the season. (Mike Mulholland | MLive.com)Mike Mulholland | MLive.com

12. PENN STATE (1-5)

Sean Clifford didn’t throw a TD pass and only had 163 yards through the air, but the Nittany Lions QB was feeling good after the game. That tends to happen after facing the Michigan defense. Penn State got in the win column on the backs of its offensive line, and a running game that was sparked by freshman Kevyvone Lee (134 yards, 22 carries) and the running quarterbacks. Penn State’s RB room has been decimated by injury, and Lee was the team’s first

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In Big 12 college football title race, not all losses count the same

Oklahoma State has had some heartbreaking Bedlam losses recently: 48-47 in 2018, 62-52 in 2017, overtime in 2012.

Clemson passes Ohio State in Amway Coaches Poll

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The Cowboys also have had some let’s-get-this-over-with Bedlam losses: 41-13 a week ago, 58-23 in 2015, 27-0 in 2009.

Doesn’t really matter how you lose, they all count the same. Until they don’t.

From NFL plays to college sports scores, all the top sports news you need to know every day.

And they might not all count the same in 2020. In this crazy season, it might come down not just to whether you won or lost, but how many you lost by.



a football player running on a baseball field: Oklahoma running back Rhamondre Stevenson (29) stiff-arms Oklahoma State cornerback Jarrick Bernard-Converse during the first half at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.


© Kevin Jairaj, USA TODAY Sports
Oklahoma running back Rhamondre Stevenson (29) stiff-arms Oklahoma State cornerback Jarrick Bernard-Converse during the first half at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.

The Big 12 football race hits the homestretch, with just two Saturdays left before the championship game. Consider this scenario:

Oklahoma wins out to finish 7-2. The Sooners will be a big favorite at home over Baylor and solid favorites at West Virginia.

Oklahoma State wins out to finish 7-2. The Cowboys will be solid favorites at TCU and at Baylor.

West Virginia wins at Iowa State. Not likely, but possible. The Mountaineers are playing much better.

Texas loses at Kansas State. Not likely, but possible. Longhorns offensive tackle Samuel Cosmi, a projected first-round draft pick, has left the team to concentrate on the NFL draft.

If those events happen, the Big 12 title game participants will be determined by margin of victory.

We would have a three-way tie for first among Oklahoma, Ohio State and Iowa State at 7-2, and each would be 1-1 against the other tied teams.

We would have a three-way tie for fourth among West Virginia, Kansas State and Texas, and the first-place teams would each be 2-1 against the fourth-place teams, which is the next criteria.

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first-place teams would have beaten the seventh-, eighth-, ninth- and 10th-place teams.

Which brings us down to point differential. Iowa State beat OU 37-30, OSU beat Iowa State 24-21 and OU beat OSU 41-13. So the Sooners would be plus-21, the Cyclones plus-four and the Cowboys minus-25.

Setting up an OU-Iowa State title game.

The message is clear in college football. Never take your foot off the gas. Run up the score as much as possible.

I don’t like margin-of-victory criteria any more than you do, but I don’t have an easy answer for the Big 12. Round-robin schedule, top two teams play for the title? Unbreakable three-way ties are bound to arise once a decade or so.

The Big 12 twice had memorable three-way ties in the divisional days and relied on the Bowl Championship Series records to break the

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Why Big 12 football title contenders need to keep making their points

Berry Tramel, The Oklahoman
Published 2:24 p.m. ET Nov. 30, 2020 | Updated 2:24 p.m. ET Nov. 30, 2020

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USA TODAY Sports’ Paul Myerberg breaks down the latest Amway Coaches Poll.

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OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma State has had some heartbreaking Bedlam losses recently: 48-47 in 2018, 62-52 in 2017, overtime in 2012.

OSU also has had some let’s-get-this-over-with Bedlam losses: 41-13 a week ago, 58-23 in 2015, 27-0 in 2009.

Doesn’t really matter how you lose, they all count the same. Until they don’t.

And they might not all count the same in 2020. In this crazy season, it might come down not just to whether you won or lost, but how many you lost by.

The Big 12 football race hits the homestretch, with just two Saturdays left before the championship game. Consider this scenario:

Oklahoma wins out to finish 7-2. The Sooners will be a big favorite at home over Baylor and solid favorites at West Virginia.

OSU wins out to finish 7-2. The Cowboys will be solid favorites at TCU and at Baylor.

West Virginia wins at Iowa State. Not likely, but possible. The Mountaineers are playing much better.

Texas loses at Kansas State. Not likely, but possible. Longhorns offensive tackle Samuel Cosmi, a projected first-round draft pick, has left the team to concentrate on the NFL draft.

If those events happen, the Big 12 title game participants will be determined by margin of victory.

We would have a three-way tie for first among OU, OSU and Iowa State at 7-2, and each would be 1-1 against the other tied teams.

We would have a three-way tie for fourth among West Virginia, Kansas State and Texas, and the first-place teams would each be 2-1 against the fourth-place teams, which is the next criteria.

All three first-place teams would have beaten the seventh-, eighth-, ninth- and 10th-place teams.

Which brings us down to point differential. Iowa State beat OU 37-30, OSU beat Iowa State 24-21 and OU beat OSU 41-13. So the Sooners would be plus-21, the Cyclones plus-four and the Cowboys minus-25.

Setting up an OU-Iowa State title game.

The message is clear in college football. Never take your foot off the gas. Run up the score as much as possible.

I don’t like margin-of-victory criteria any more than you do, but I don’t have an easy answer for the Big 12. Round-robin schedule, top two teams play for the title? Unbreakable three-way ties are bound to arise once a decade or so.

The Big 12 twice had memorable three-way ties in the divisional days and relied on the Bowl Championship Series records to break the deadlock, when head-to-head failed. In 2008, OU, Texas and Texas Tech each were 7-1. In 2010, OU, OSU and Texas A&M each were 6-2.

The BCS picked OU both years. The

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The College Athletes Who Are Allowed to Make Big Bucks: Cheerleaders

During the three years Jamie Andries spent as a member of the University of Oklahoma cheerleading team, she cheered at two Big 12 championship football games, the Orange Bowl, the Sugar Bowl, the Rose Bowl and the 2016 Final Four.

And while the star football and basketball players in those games — including the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Baker Mayfield and the future N.B.A. guard Buddy Hield — were forbidden to make money from their athletic fame beyond what the university provided to cover their attendance, Andries was receiving thousands of dollars through sponsorship deals with Crocs, L’Oréal, American Eagle and Lokai.

“Coming to OU for college was a big milestone for me but it has given me so many amazing opportunities like being able to cheer for the Sooners,” Andries said in an Instagram post in February 2016 that shows her wearing her cheer uniform and holding up her left wrist to display two Lokai bracelets. “This month I support @livelokai and the Alzheimer’s Association.”

The lucrative opportunities for Andries came because of her fame and a social media following in the cheerleading world — she is one of the top “cheerlebrities,” as such stars are known — and because the N.C.A.A. and its universities do not regulate cheerleading in the same ways they do other sports.

Long-held rules governing amateurism among college athletes do not apply to cheerleaders, meaning they can sell autographs, appear in commercials and wear their cheer uniforms while promoting products as social influencers, without fear of being disciplined. In sports governed by the N.C.A.A., athletes risk their eligibility to compete if they engage in similar activities, and their teams and universities can also be punished.

In 2011, for example, a scandal erupted at Ohio State when several football players sold awards, bowl-game memorabilia and other Buckeyes swag to the owner of a tattoo parlor, resulting in the resignation of the team’s coach, a skipped postseason and the loss of nine scholarships for the program.

The rules have also challenged some superstars to choose between college sports and the commercial markets. Simone Biles, the Olympic gymnastics champion, gave up a scholarship offer from U.C.L.A. when the financial reality of turning pro made participating in college sports seem like too much of a sacrifice.

The N.C.A.A. has long fought attempts to loosen its rules, but is now on a path toward allowing athletes to earn money from some endorsements, including through social media deals. The shift followed pressure from legislation in California and several other states, enacted by lawmakers who said the N.C.A.A.’s stance was no longer tenable given the significant growth of college sports as a moneymaking enterprise.

New rules are expected to be adopted by January and to take effect at the start of the 2021-22 academic year, creating a new market.

Andries said in an interview that she understands why the current restrictions for college athletes exist, but thinks that the rules can be changed in a way that is still palatable to universities

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