It’s been debated for a long time, but now with a recent bill passed in the state of California, it’s becoming a reality for some student athletes. The Fair Pay to Play Act, which was recently signed into law by governor Gavin Newsom, will allow student athletes in the state of California to be paid for use of their name or likeness. While the bill won’t come into effect until 2023, there are some college athletic directors in the United States who have already stated they won’t be scheduling non-conference games against California schools.
The NCAA has been against student athletes being paid for a long time, but colleges have made — and continue to make — loads of money off of them — whether it is jersey sales or simply being able to fill stadiums and arenas each week. Shouldn’t they get some compensation for the value they’re adding?
Let’s take college football for example. When a team reaches the six-win mark in their season, they become bowl-eligible. A number of teams started their season 6-0, such as Minnesota, Penn State, Alabama and others. The coaches from these schools are already guaranteed bonuses simply for their team being eligible for the postseason. Notably, James Franklin, head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions football team, will receive a $200,000 bonus.
The NCAA’s stance is that athletes are there to get a degree, not to make money. The challenge is the discrepancy of revenue for the schools when comparing sports like football or basketball with that of track and field or field hockey. Different sports generate different revenue depending on which school you’re talking about. For example, schools in the northeast may generate decent revenue with ice hockey, while teams in the south are getting most of their revenue from football.
In the case of California, athletes are going to be able to make money off of endorsements. So whether your sport generates a lot of revenue or not, a top level athlete in any sport could be able to still make a lot of money, thanks to endorsement, brand deals and so on. The challenge of the California bill is that it may put athletes in those schools at a disadvantage if the conferences they play in rule their teams ineligible to compete (for example, Pac-12 teams not being able to compete in the College Football Playoff or March Madness).
College athletes deserve to be paid, but until everyone is on board, the California bill creates a tricky situation for all NCAA schools.