Jake Butt tore his ACL during his last Michigan football game against Florida State on Dec. 31, risking millions of future signing dollars to help his team attempt to win the Orange Bowl. But instead of discussing whether he should have skipped the game to stave off injury when questioned at Michigan’s Pro Day, he changed the conversation to something that mattered more — NCAA policies.
“I should be the example of why college athletes should be getting paid in college,” Butt said.
While Butt has commented on his issues with the NCAA in the past (especially on Twitter), he used his platform at Pro Day to raise new awareness to his concerns. He believes that athletes who are bringing in huge amounts of revenue for their universities should be compensated for their efforts.
“When it first hit me was when I was getting $900 a month and my rent was 700 bucks,” Butt said. “I see my name being used to profit someone else, and I got $200 for food, gas, cable, water.”
As he alluded to, Butt’s scholarship was hardly enough to cover basic living expenses: his $700 rent didn’t even cover utilities. With a full course load and an intense practice schedule, there was no way to get a job, so Butt was left with only one option.
“I had to call my dad,” Butt said. “And thankfully I’m lucky, my dad was able to help me out a little bit, but there’s plenty of people that don’t have families that can send them a couple bucks to help them cover everything else.”
Butt admits that his situation wasn’t nearly as bad as it could get.
“Some people can’t call their parents,” Butt said. “Some people are sending their money home to their parents.
“There’s one example last year of a guy, someone was giving him money — his family money — because his mom can’t pay the bills,” Butt said. “A millionaire guy is giving his mom a couple hundred bucks a month to help her pay her bills. When this guy is sacrificing his body… I don’t see a problem with that.”
One of the issues, according to Butt, is that his likeness can be used without his consent, and profited off of hugely. Meanwhile he is still forced to look for funds elsewhere, though other people are making a indefinite amounts of money off of his name, face and signature. He has even seen people wearing shirts emblazoned with “I like Jake Butt and I cannot lie.”
The ability to profit off Butt is not limited to the NCAA, though. Anyone on the street can sell his signature too, but Butt can’t use his own name for any special benefits — not even a free breakfast.
“I see those mini helmets going for like 340 bucks with like me and Jabrill’s signatures on Ebay,” Butt said. “There’s something not adding up here. ‘They’re protecting us.’ They at least should come up with something better. They’re not protecting us.”
He would like athletes to be compensated somehow, and while he repeated that he didn’t need a paycheck, it seems that education isn’t always enough.
“I’m grateful. (I had a) wonderful education here at Michigan,” Butt said. “But there’s something missing here. …I’m looking at how much money this March Madness is bringing in … oh, but the basketball players get an education? How are they getting an education if they’re missing the whole entire month of March?”
According to him, Butt doesn’t plan on giving up his cause after he starts his career in the NFL. He will keep speaking out and advocating for the rights of student athletes. And while Butt hasn’t come up with a concrete fix for the issues he’s raised, several suggestions were thrown out.
“What would happen if we didn’t play? Damn,” Butt said. “Think about how much money the NCAA is losing if we didn’t play.
“I think these kind of conversations are important. Someday, something needs to change.”