The NCAA is facing a point of no return, staring down a bill signed into law by California Governor Gavin Newsom, which will allow the payment of college athletes by the year 2023.
Now everyone is taking sides, some argue they’ll preserve the institution of collegiate athletics, while others profess to be fighting the corrupt system keeping athletes down.
As with so many things, both sides are so far on either end that neither is very bearable. What’s worse is a tremendously fantastic law is getting a little lost in the shuffle.
What is it and why is this law so essential for college sports?
Here is briefly what the law is trying to do: The Fair Pay to Play Act is giving college athletes command of their name and brand. It is allowing players to go out and get endorsement deals. If we could go back in time, Johnny Manziel or A.J. Green would never have faced consequences for selling their autographs and jerseys.
Is this good for college sports?
Of course it is. The rules around player compensation are ridiculously strict, but many violations go uncaught. If the FBI case that exposed college basketball has taught us anything, it is that players get paid.
But right now any player receiving compensation is paid only in the most deceptive ways. The new law brings these commonplace transactions into the light of day. It also gives athletes a real opportunity to build a brand.
With the law in place, the power and responsibility goes entirely to the players themselves— and the NCAA would have to butt out from their athletes’ transactions. It gives equal opportunity for each athlete to use his or her platform to go out and build a brand—and to profit.
The law has zero impact whatsoever on universities. No money comes out of tuition or TV deals. Student-athletes looking for payment off-campus will also keep colleges from needing to raise the cost of tuition.
Does this professionalize college sports? I would say we crossed that bridge when places like Ohio State started making over a billion dollars off college football.
But what about the average college student? Won’t they even feel more disadvantaged?
As someone who was both a student-athlete and a student through college, being just a student is already a drag. The student-athlete already gets advantages and perks that the regular student will never receive. This law is about leveling the playing field between student-athletes and the universities making billions off their work.
The bottom line: This is good for college sports, good for the athletes, and good for colleges. The law can save a world of sports from descending into its own muck—and would turn recruiting into an upfront process instead of an underhanded black market.
The most important thing for the NCAA is to act quickly. The faster they accept this and move on, the less lopsided this becomes for college sports. Right now, California has already moved forward with the law, as has Florida. A host of states, including Minnesota, Washington and Colorado are pushing to make a similar move.
If the NCAA drags this out, there is potential for some lopsided recruiting classes. And if the NCAA holds teams from these states out of bowl or title games, conferences could be destroyed and bowl matchups turned into jokes.
If California, Washington and Colorado all go through with this law, the title game for the PAC-12 could quickly get narrowed down to only a few schools—and that doesn’t sound like a fun race for the Rose Bowl.
Act quickly, NCAA. Don’t be dumb. The Fair Act to Play Act is a good thing.