In a world where college athletes are praised by fans, few make it to the professional level where they would be paid for playing. The debate on whether college athletes should be paid for their time and talent, however, is being challenged by one state.
California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill allowing college student-athletes to earn a salary, potentially changing the college sports world.
This challenges National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) rules stating athletes should only earn a degree, not a salary, for playing at the collegiate level.
“It comes down to [this]: without the college market would the players be worth anything or without the players would the NCAA market be worth anything?” said Rick Hackford, head athletic trainer at Westminster College.
What will this law do?
Newsom officially signed Bill 206 on Sept. 30 allowing student-athletes to hire agents and strike endorsement deals under their name.
“[This means] the schools that can come up with endorsements for their players, will get the best players,” Hackford said.
The bill was originally introduced to the State Senate three years ago by California Senator Nancy Skinner, who argued student-athletes should profit off their own name, image and likeability.
The law cleared the State Assembly with a unanimous vote of 72-0 in early September of this year. This makes the “Fair Pay to Play Act” unlike any other bill in college sports history.
There are a few restrictions in this law such as how athletes can’t make deals to wear or represent companies that go against the university’s pre-existing endorsement deals. For example, a student-athlete couldn’t make a deal to wear shoes from Nike if the team shoes are endorsed by Adidas.
Bill 209 will also prohibit the NCAA from punishing student-athletes from striking endorsement deals in the future.
The law will take effect in 2023.
How does this challenge NCAA rules?
By signing this bill, California is challenging one of the largest organizations in the sports world. For decades, the NCAA has placed strict protocols against amateurism violations.
The NCAA guidelines forbid student-athletes from being paid or endorsed in any way.
“[The NCAA are] not going to do the right thing on their own.” said Gov. Newsom in a New York Times article. “They only do the right thing when they’re sued or they’re forced to do the right thing.”
The NCAA bans activities that allows athletes to take any sort of compensation, like signing autographs or accepting sponsorships for personal gain.
“It’s going to make [the NCAA] either figure out how to do it without California schools or how to bring themselves in alignment with the law,” said Hackford, an athletic trainer at Westminster.
How is the public reacting?
The college sports world is divided on the topic of paying athletes. The NCAA has been challenged prior to this bill, but the bill hasn’t been passed in any capacity until now.
Political officials and college students are voicing their opinions all over the internet.
“People are just so aware of the fact that you’ve got a multibillion-dollar industry that, let’s set aside scholarships, basically denies compensation to the very talent, the very work that produces that revenue,” said Senator Nancy Skinner, who wrote the bill, in a CBS News article. “Students who love their sport and are committed to continuing their sport in college are handicapped in so many ways, and it’s all due to NCAA rules.”
The NCAA opposes the bill, arguing it will recruit top athletes across the country to only play for California schools with expectations of a salary.
“It’s going to do away with [smaller school’s] ability to have good players,” Hackford said. “Right now, it’s not legal to give money to players, so all the best players are going to transfer to California schools.”
Several former and in-season student athletes support the idea of potential pay. Many athletes believe they should be able to self-promote themselves on a larger stage if they are famed as much as future professional prospects are.
“Having the option of pay would be great, every athlete would like that,” said Mason Ward, a sophomore management major and who competes for the Westminster golf team.
However, not all student-athletes agree.
“The NCAA has given us a great opportunity to play football,” said Michael Pittman Jr., a senior wide receiver for the University of Southern California. “I think it would be great for players to get paid, but honestly, that’s way past me. I’m just going to keep playing every week until I reach that level that actually pays me.”
California lawmakers will revisit the issue before the end of October while NCAA leaders plan to have a committee evaluate the bill for changes.
California universities could benefit greatly in the recruiting process since this bill passed.
“Other schools might start losing their players to California schools unless the NCAA does something about it,” Hackford said. “There’s no way [Westminster] can compete against a California school, even a Division II California school.”
High schoolers will be much more drawn to go to a school where they have the opportunity to get paid for their hard work, according to some people involved in college athletics.
“I think it could draw more student-athletes to California schools if this is allowed under the NCAA, especially in individual sports,” said Josh Pittman, the Westminster men’s soccer team head coach.
California lawmakers now wait for the NCAA to respond with an official decision of what they plan to do next.