California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill two weeks ago that has the potential to completely shake up the landscape of college sports. The law, titled the Fair Pay to Play Act, would allow college student-athletes to profit off their image and likeness and hire agents for representation. The premise of this bill is in complete and direct opposition to the NCAA’s policies regarding college athlete amateurism.
The NCAA holds that, in order to compete in the association, one must fit the definition of an “amateur athlete.” If you are an amateur athlete, you are not entitled to any form of compensation in any way. The NCAA’s policy states that, “The NCAA does allow athletes to receive some compensation as an amateur athlete, as long as the amounts do not exceed what are deemed actual and necessary expenses.”
Furthermore, athletes cannot benefit from any sort of sponsorship. The NCAA prevents this, stating that “If the athlete is being paid in any way to wear a specific brand or promote a product, it would be considered a violation.”
The NCAA has gotten away with this stance for too long. Two years ago, the association reported an annual revenue of over $1 billion, according to USA Today. They are absolutely making a killing, while the athletes who actually generate their revenue are walking away empty-handed.
The NCAA will argue that full-ride scholarships and admission to America’s best universities are compensation enough for their star competitors. Athletes also benefit from their university’s facilities and some have the opportunity to receive a world-class education free of charge.
Take the rise of college basketball’s “one and dones” as an example. These are top-level talents who attend university for a one-year minimum before ideally moving on to play professionally. Student-athletes like these often have little intention of ever fulfilling the student portion of their title. There are people like Zion Williamson, who go into college with basketball as their sole intention and generate a profit for their university through basketball, but are then excluded from making any profit themselves.
Former USC head football coach Pete Carroll chimed into the debate, standing firmly on the side of the NCAA. Carroll believes student-athletes should not be compensated for their services. “I don’t know the real depth to [the law]. I’ve never been the guy that feels players needed to be paid to play. I’ve felt like their scholarship and all the advantages that the guys [have] was always a pretty darn good deal ... I don’t know that that’s ... good for the kids.”
Carroll’s take sums up the flawed mentality that the higher-ups of the NCAA have regarding the issue. To the NCAA, its athletes are simply kids who should be more grateful for what they have already been afforded. In reality, however, the vast majority of these students are over 18 and are grown adults in the eyes of the government. They are people who often work just as hard as professionals and who can garner just as much fame as professionals, but are denied any sort of comparable financial compensation.
This new California law represents a step in the right direction for America’s collegiate athletes to receive the benefits they deserve. Ideally, more states will follow California in passing similar legislation which would hopefully lead to policy change on the federal level.
This is the opinion of Nick Rossi, a junior AIMS major from Orange, California. Tweet comments to @LALoyolan or email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.