A bill that has recently passed through California says college athletes are able to hire agents and seek compensation from the school for any activities that utilize the athletes name, image or likeness. One aspect should be made clear, this isn’t a bill that allows players to be paid for simply playing the sport; but rather it allows the player to be paid portions from jersey sales, photographs, appearances etc. The bill, which would take effect in 2023, could quite possibly turn college athletics on its head.
Earlier this year, the NCAA had commented that they would be examining a similar model. This comment lead many to believe that EA Sports would be able to make the NCAA Football games again, because the use of an athletes likeness is the principal issue that got the game shelved in the first place. So if that is the case, then why is Mark Emmert threatening California law makers with championship bans for their division one schools? In his letter, Emmert stated that the current bill is in contrast with current NCAA rules and materially alters the principles of intercollegiate athletics and creates local differences that would make it impossible to host fair national championships and likely could result in negative impacts on the student athletes the bill intends to help. While Emmert may not have come right out and said that passage of the bill would ban schools from participating in championship games, the implication is certain.
Lawmakers opposing the bill, which passed in a 31-4 vote, opposed simply because they felt a bill of this magnitude should be handled on the federal level; while supporters argued that this bill would allow California to be the catalyst in nationwide change. This is hardly the first time California lawmakers have laid the ground work for nationwide change. We’ve seen it before with legalization of marijuana, carbon taxes, gun control measures so on and so forth. They’ve already prompted change amongst collegiate athletics before when they passed legislation requiring schools provide scholarships to athletes who suffered career ending injuries for the remainder of their college education. They even passed a bill that increased medical insurance and care for up to for years post injury. Versions of both bills have been adopted by other states in the years that followed.
So why does the Emmert and the NCAA continue to fight against compensating players in any manner? Simply put, its about greed and control. The NCAA knows there is no legit other option for athletes to transition from high school to the pros, especially for football. Because of this fact, the NCAA can continue to hold a players future in their hands and will fight to give it up. Most athletes will never make it to the pros or have the type of career in the leagues that could financially set themselves up for generations. So for those athletes the scholarships hold value. However, for the select few who are simply buying their time in the NCAA, it is modern day slavery. Football players have it the worst, because there is no farm system for the pro teams; the NCAA is the farm system. Basketball players have the option to play professionally overseas for a year, and we’ve seen two top prospects choose that route this year alone. My prediction is we will see that trend increase in the years to come. Every other sport has an alternative to dealing with the NCAA, football does not and the majority of the money the NCAA and colleges make comes from their football programs. If someone could figure out how to create a legit farm system for the NFL to develop player size and talent as they transition from high school to the pros then the NCAA could be in big trouble.
This conversation isn’t even about paying players to play, which comes with its own set of issues. This is simply about compensating the athletes for using their image and likeness with more than paying for BS classes the elite athletes will never use. It is literally the bare minimum the NCAA can do, and is a step in the right direction. Elite athletes have a very short amount of time to capitalize on their talents and make as much money as possible in that window. I’ll never fault an athlete on any level who decides to go make more money somewhere else, we are a capitalist economy and have a right to make as much money as possible. Athletics are these kids trade, they are honing their skills just the same as any carpenter, welder or mason would. Its their jerseys the fans are wearing, its their pictures in the programs, it is them that puts fans in the stands and they should be rewarded for it.