The NCAA is a slumlord.
That might be harsh, but connect the correlation. The organization has a broken-down structure and refuses to make the necessary repairs, yet still finds a way to greatly benefit itself.
California will attempt to level the playing field after Goc. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 206, or more commonly referred to as the “Fair Pay to Play Act,” into law. It prevents a university from punishing or stripping a scholarship away from an athlete for receiving money from their name, image and likeness.
The NCAA is a billion-dollar industry and continues to rake in the dough off essentially its “unpaid employees.” You can argue semantics all you want: The athletes get free tuition, free room and board and, as of 2015, receive a small stipend to cover other college expenses.
For these gifts, they must follow an insanely strict set of guidelines. One slip could ruin the player’s eligibility and the school’s athletic future.
The majority, I believe, is missing the point. The issue is about more than dollars and cents.
Free college is a fair compensation. There are plenty of individuals leaving school with large student loans that would probably agree with that. But enforcing your own set of rules, not spreading the wealth and handcuffing these kids on what they can or can’t do outside the court or field of play is wrong and extremely selfish.
Of course, if you are using a player’s likeness to sell a jersey or a video game or promote a big showdown to pad your already-heavy pockets, they should be compensated. But what about the little guy? What about the players that don’t get the attention or see their name in lights?
Revenue-sharing is a must in the college sports world for all the athletes on campus, not just the university rainmakers.
And not all sports are treated the same. Only six are guaranteed with full scholarships by the NCAA. The others are referred to as equivalency sports and may not be granted full rides, depending on the size of the school and roster.
What harm would come to the NCAA’s bottom line if a player could make money from an autograph session or be featured in a local company’s commercial? It could be a major boost for athletes who don’t get the Zion Williamson-type exposure.
Players of that caliber get all the hype they need in college to set them up for riches at the next level. Players at smaller schools don’t have that luxury and can benefit from this opportunity.
College athletics is a one-sided business model and will always be an unfair game. The NCAA is possibly the only company or organization that’s not required to compensate those who develop or produce their product. They have no problem collecting millions of dollars in television revenue or endorsement deals from Nike, Adidas and Under Armour or money from boosters and donors. It doesn’t go to help all college athletes.
They can build 100,000-seat stadiums, erect huge weight rooms and athletic facilities, then turn around and threaten to cut off other sports programs like the bullies they are, over lack of funding.
The Fair Pay to Play Act doesn’t go into effect until January 2023, so it gives the NCAA plenty of time to mount a defense. It has already threatened to ban California schools from postseason play because it would give them an unfair advantage. (Apparently, the NCAA doesn’t mind being the ultimate hypocrite.)
That issue will intensify as several states seem ready to follow California’s lead and adopt similar legislation. Kentucky, Kansas and North Carolina obviously do not want to lose recruits to the West Coast.
It will be interesting to see how it all plays out. College athletics have already become too corporate and the NCAA should be aware of the cracks forming in its foundation.
But it isn’t.
NCAA president Mark Emmert would be wise to embrace this new law or develop new rules that would aid athletes in their future endeavors. He claims that he has “a working group” looking at this growing problem.
One stipulation of the new California law is players would be allowed to sign agents. Administrators’ main reply to SB 206 is “it’s a slippery slope.” Yeah, they can be very slick.
This group needs to work fast or end up with an influx of agents roaming around campus. The recruiting process will become even more daunting when a player will decide his or her college destination based on its money-making abilities, not the school itself.
SB 206 is warranted based on past actions by the NCAA, but a shift in the balance of power is needed with a top-heavy business model that has no plans of moving.
The responsibility for this revolt resides solely with the NCAA. The Fair Pay to Play Act is misleading. Athletes are not getting paid to play, but no player in any sport should have to pay for anything while they are helping make millions for their university.
It’s not about the money to be made, but how everyone and every sport gets what they deserve.
That seems fair.
Contact MATTHEW SPARKS at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @SparksWillFly35 on Twitter.