ANN ARBOR, Mich. —Michigan’s Jake Butt doesn’t want to talk about the millions he risked as a senior by playing in the Capital One Orange Bowl last season.
He wants to talk about $900 instead.
That’s the scholarship money Butt said says he was forced on to live on each month while playing football for the Wolverines. He wants to talk about the $700 rent he had to pay each month and the awkward conversation that followed when he has to ask his father for money.
Butt doesn’t see himself as the poster child for the debate about whether college football players should play in bowl games, even if that’s where he was positioned after suffering a torn ACL in Michigan’s 33-32 loss to Florida State in the Orange Bowl, a move that probably cost him a round or two in the 2017 NFL Draft.
“You can get injured walking down the sidewalk,” Butt said at Michigan Pro Day on Friday. “I’m never sitting out of a football game.”
That’s an open-and-shut case in his book. Butt, however, chose to ignite another debate with a far-more complicated answer.
“I think I should be the example of why athletes should be paid in college or why I can’t use my name to benefit off my likeness in college,” Butt said.
Butt has been outspoken on this topic before on social media before, but he took the opportunity to let loose on that topic citing multiple examples. Signed football helmets and jerseys. T-shirts that say “I like Jake Butt and I cannot lie.” Butt talked about the revenue generated from March Madness and the escalating coaching salaries, though he was careful to point out that Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has “earned that.”
“I’m grateful for my wonderful education at Michigan,” Butt said. “I made multiple connections, great people, and I’m very grateful. But there’s something missing here. You see the salaries of a lot of people, and there’s a few months where I’m getting $900 and rent is $700. Let’s do the math here.
“When I see people wearing my jersey or people wearing shirts with my name on it and that’s being sold to someone else that’s making that and I’m making $900 and my rent is $700,” Butt posed before answering. “I’m a smart guy and that’s just not adding up.”
That conversation with his father empowered Butt to be an advocate on the issue. Butt stated his case using an autograph signing he attended where a fan showed up with four game-worn Butt jerseys and two game-worn pants along with some gloves. Butt said he supported Wisconsin forward Nigel Hayes, who drew criticism in the fall for goingon ESPN College GameDay with a “broke athlete" sign.
Butt said he doesn’t necessarily see the NCAA to pay athletes, but the player likeness issue is something he reiterated multiple times. That’s something that needs fixed.
“I don’t want a check from the NCAA, but the big thing is you can’t use your name to benefit from my name,” Butt said. “Some people can’t call their parents. Some people are sending money home to their parents. You take that $900 and now you subtract from that …”
Butt also promised to stick with the issue even after going to the NFL Draft, and he’s sure to catch on with a NFL roster. Butt didn’t have to bring up the issues of amateurism up, but he chose to in a unique forum. That shows his intentions are genuine. He still questions if the NCAA can stay the same.
“They’re protecting us?” Butt asked before offering his own answer. “They at least to come up with something better than that. They’re not protecting us.”