The NCAA has once again shown its true objective. That objective is ensuring that college athletes do not receive any financial benefit that is not NCAA approved. On June 24th, it was reported that NCAA president Mark Emmert sent a letter to the California State Assembly. The letter informed the California State Legislature that the NCAA may ban California colleges from participating in NCAA championships if The Fair Pay to Play Act is passed. The Act aims to allow college athletes to profit from the commercial use of their name, image, and likeness (NIL).
That is right, the NCAA seeks to punish California schools if the state passes a law that would benefit college athletes. The bill was proposed by California state senators Nancy Skinner and Steven Bradford in February. Last month, the California State Senate passed the bill. It is very likely that the bill will continue to pass through the California Sate Legislature and become law. This high probability led the NCAA to send that letter in an attempt to impede the bill's progress.
What Happens if the Bill Becomes Law in California?
If the bill is signed into law, it will not go into effect until 2023. At that time, college athletes in California would be allowed to garner endorsement deals and sign with agents. The schools would not be paying the athletes. The athletes would get paid from outside sources. Therefore, the bill does not pose any Title IX implications. It also will have no effect on non-revenue producing sports. However, the NCAA wants the bill’s progress postponed until their working group has had a chance to address the matter.
The NCAA Creates Working Group to Address Issues Related to College Athletes’ NIL
On May 14th, the NCAA announced that it created a working group to address issues regarding college athletes’ ability to profit from the commercial use of their NIL. The NCAA created this working group in response to several bills, similar to the one in California, being introduced at both the state and federal levels. A bill was introduced in Washington state that aims to allow college athletes in Washington to profit from the commercial use of their NIL. At the federal level, Congressman Mark Walker of North Carolina introduced the Student-Athlete Equity Act. The Act purports to amend the tax code so that amateur sports organizations such as the NCAA can no longer strip athletes of their right to profit from their name, image, and likeness.
In an effort to get ahead of the issues raised in these bills, the NCAA created the working group. Many were skeptical of the actual goals of the working group. Many questioned whether the NCAA would actually amend the rules in a favorable manner for college athletes. The letter the NCAA sent to the California State Legislature has painted a bleak picture for any hope that the NCAA will make rule changes that benefit college athletes in a meaningful way. After all, the NCAA recently announced that it may tighten up on college athletes' ability to transfer.
Last summer, the NCAA passed a new transfer rule that served as a major benefit to many college athletes by allowing them to be immediately eligible upon transfer. After complaints about college athletes newfound freedom, the NCAA announced that it may be issuing tighter guidelines for schools to consider in determining an athlete’s immediate eligibility. The NCAA's announcement regarding the transfer rule does not leave much hope for the efforts of the working group. However, what the working group will actually do remains to be seen. In the meantime, California should call the NCAA’s bluff and move forward with the progression of the bill. After all, how likely is it that the NCAA will carry out its threat?
Will the NCAA Make Good on its Threat?
California is home to some of college sports premier programs. Stanford, University of California Los Angeles, and the University of Southern California all have renowned sports programs. These schools are also members of the Power 5 Conference, the Pac 12. The Pac-12 Conference would be directly affected if the NCAA makes good on its threat. However, the Pac-12 seems to support the efforts of the NCAA's working group. The Unafraid Show reached out the Pac-12 Conference for comments regarding The Fair Pay to Play Act and Mark Emmert's letter.
The Pac-12 responded with a letter that the conference's commissioner Larry Scott sent to the chairman of the California State Legislature Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism, and Internet Media Committee on June 14, 2019. The Pac-12's letter was sent to the California State Legislature prior to the report of NCAA president Mark Emmert's letter. In the Pac-12's letter, Mr. Scott requested that the committee hold the bill until the NCAA's working group finalizes its work this fall. The letter stated Pac-12 athletic director Rick George of the University of Colorado, Boulder joined the committee. Mr. Scott also stressed the Pac-12's commitment to protecting and supporting the welfare of student-athletes. The Pac-12 Conference did not comment on Mark Emmert's letter.
It is Time for Change in College Athletics
Although the Pac-12 would prefer the California State Legislature postpone the bill, the California State Legislature should do just the opposite. The California State Legislature should call the NCAA's bluff. California is home to some of college sports premier programs. Does it really make sense that the NCAA would prohibit all of California's colleges from competing in championships? The NCAA has too much to lose. The organization has its broadcasting deal with CBS Sports and Turner a division of Time Warner to consider. Would the NCAA really risk losing money on that deal by not making the California colleges' games available?
The answer is no. The NCAA did not become a billion dollar non-profit organization by missing opportunities to maximize their profit margin. After all, if the NCAA did not punish UNC for creating sham courses why would the NCAA punish California for passing a law that benefits college athletes? Therefore, California should call the NCAA’s bluff and continue to fight for what is right.
California should set an example by passing The Fair Pay to Play Act. It is very likely that other states would follow suit for competitive reasons if nothing else.
The NCAA has shown time and again that their aim is to prohibit the financial benefits of college athletes as much as possible in the name of amateurism. Amateurism is a sham. That has been proven by the exorbitant coaching contracts that are signed year after year. The NCAA will only authorize changes in college athletics when forced to. They only created the working group after several state and federal bills were introduced and gaining traction. California should call the NCAA’s bluff and continue to push the bill through. At the very least, California could force the working group to amend the rules so that college athletes can finally profit from the commercial use of their own face and name.