This new legislation in California awaiting the signature of Gov. Gavin Newsom will have a huge effect on college sports in a multitude of ways

The state of California recently declared that collegiate athletes within the state will be able to receive payment for their name, image, and likeness without penalty from the NCAA or individual schools. This comes after there have been increasingly loud calls for collegiate athletes to be compensated for the excitement, profit and publicity they provide their schools, the NCAA and broadcast companies.

The idea of college students receiving money due to their efforts on the field seems foreign considering college athletics have always been defined by amateurism. However, many people are arguing that the presentation of college sports has presented a professional composition that has never been seen before. Therefore, shouldn’t the players be treated like professionals if they are going to be presented in the same way as actual professionals? 

Some people are on one side and some are on the other, but most would agree that a balance needs to be struck. This is what the NCAA, collegiate athletes, individual colleges and lawmakers are going to be discussing until 2023 when the new act goes into effect, given it remains intact until then.

However, what goes unnoticed is how money being injected into college sports will have both positive and negative effects throughout all aspects of collegiate athletics. This new legislation is a lot more than simply allowing players to accept endorsements. Rather, it is completely altering the NCAA’s product and model. Only time will tell if this change in the college athletics world is positive or not. For now, there are aspects of this new idea that need to be studied, discussed and understood before a mindset is adopted.

There is a struggle between a traditional view of what college sports should be and a modern view of what college sports can be. However, most would argue that the world of college sports has changed and perhaps it is time that our rules and laws, both public and private, embrace that change.

“The truth of the matter is, there are millions and probably even billions of dollars [in college athletics] that weren’t there 20 years ago. A lot of it has to do with ESPN and how it has blown up college sports,” said Azusa Pacific Athletic Director Gary Pine. “I remember the day when there were basically two college football games on television and you hoped your team was in one of them.”

Money comes with both good and bad intentions. Both the NCAA and the players want everything to be as fair and realistic as possible for both sides. There are others out there who just want their piece of the pie and are going to do whatever they have to do to get it. This is the nature of everything that has money as the top incentive. 

Business and a desire for profit have taken over the world of professional sports and now it looks as if it is beginning to trickle down into college sports. At this point, with how popular and demanded coverage of college sports is, there is no going back to a day of simple amateurism in college athletics. It has become so much larger than that.

Diving deeper into the act and studying its short history, it is evident that there is popularity behind the bill. It also faces, however, a mountain of obstacles before it becomes any kind of nationwide law. In all likelihood, it will be many years before we see college athletes regularly receiving checks for their effort on the field and their popularity off of it. 

In February, Nancy Skinner, a member of the California State Senate, introduced a bill allowing collegiate athletes to hire agents and accept endorsements without fear of penalty from the NCAA or their respective school. Passing in the state senate 31-5 in May, the bill was amended following the vote which sent it back for a re-vote. The state assembly passed the bill in an incredibly large unanimous vote of 73-0. Currently, Gov. Gavin Newsom has officially signed the bill into law as expected.

However, this bill going into law in California may not have an immediate positive effect on California colleges. According to Sports Illustrated, “The bill would make it impossible for schools to follow the NCAA’s amateurism rules. California has over 20 Division I schools, four of which are members of the Pac-12 conference. In May, NCAA president Mark Emmert wrote a letter to legislators saying the bill could make California universities ineligible for national championships [California has the top three schools in terms of overall national championships in USC, UCLA and Stanford].”

This decision by the NCAA to make all California schools ineligible for certain competition could stunt the growth of collegiate athletics in California for years. If possible, recruits know that they aren’t going to be able to compete in all NCAA competition including the larger bowls and championships in football, so they will elect to commit elsewhere and California schools could see their athletic programs take a big hit.

According to legal analyst Michael McCann, “It would likely face legal challenges long before 2023 that could render the Act void or delay its implementation.” Given that the bill wouldn’t go into effect until January 1, 2023, even if it is signed into law by Gov. Newsom in the next 30 days, there is still a lot of time for the bill to face opposition or gain more support from those inside, outside and around college sports.

“The fundamental problem that I have with it is that it is going to put all California schools, both in the NCAA and NAIA, in conflict with our governing organizations,” Pine said. “Granted, this bill is directed more so at the major universities that make significant amounts of money off of their athletic programs, but it affects every school in California.”

It seems out of the norm to pay college students for their athletic abilities considering they are students and most aren’t even over the age of 21. It’s an obvious fact that many of these students are receiving a free college education. Some argue that a free scholarship is enough compensation for their athletic efforts on the playing surface. 

The argument from the athletes and some college sports professionals, as well as fans, reminds people that the schools, NCAA, broadcast companies and athletic brands are making an enormous amount of money off of these athletes. According to Forbes, Texas A&M University has averaged an annual revenue of $148 million making it the number one most valuable college athletics program in the United States.

Texas A&M alone makes more money in one year due to its athletic programs than a large number of professional sports teams. That shouldn’t be the aspiration for these colleges; yet, most would say that money shouldn’t be the aspiration for collegiate athletes. However, if the colleges are going to take advantage of large profits and opportunities to make even more, athletes should have the same freedom in financial decision making as well.

There has even been support for the bill from athletes already in the big leagues. Notable NBA stars such as Draymond Green and LeBron James have expressed their opinions on the matter, with James even tweeting, “Everyone is California- call your politicians and tell them to support SB 206! This law is a GAME CHANGER. College athletes can responsibly get paid for what they do and the billions they create.”

There is no blame to place on any party, however, the fanatics supporting college sports, especially football, have fed this issue and it is reaching its breaking point. TNamely, a decision needs to be made on how all of this chatter of money is going to be settled. We live in a supply and demand led society and this predicament between amateurism and professionalism in college athletics is just a product of said society.

This new era of college football and the new addition to this era in the “Fair Pay to Play Act” are a direct result of people wanting the product that the NCAA is selling. 

“This is the product of a free market society because we’re broken people and we always want a little bit more. This is probably the natural evolution of a popular thing. In this case, that popular thing is college [sports],” Pine said.

The NCAA is a 109-year old institution that has molded its business model around having higher education institutions offer scholarships to the most talented and promising student-athletes and in return, those athletes will become the feature names and faces of American college athletics. As the NCAA has evolved to fit the demand they are receiving every week from millions of people across America, it seems as if the players have been expected to go along for the ride without any regard for their increased publicity and expectations.

The NCAA has also done little to nothing to improve conditions for student-athletes. The final solution could very well be this new Act, however, a middle ground is going to have to be found if anything is going to improve.

“I think there is a middle ground. Do I know what that is? No, but there are smarter people than me trying to figure it out,” Pine said. “What the NCAA is saying to California is that it is going to take a while because this is a complicated issue.”

It is indeed a complex issue which is why the NCAA has until 2023 to come up with some kind of solution to instill upon their entire association and all that it envelops. This bill is just the shove that was needed to get people talking about this issue. The idea of college athletes being bigger than amateurism isn’t new, but not until now has governmental action been taken.

It is interesting to think of a future where NCAA athletes can make massive amounts of money for their name, image and likeness. For now, we are in the middle of a waiting game, hoping that the best possible solution is found and implemented so that all is fair while the integrity, innocence and marketability of college sports remain beneficial for all.