In 2019, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a senate bill that allowed college athletes to profit from their name and likeness starting in January 2023. This was known as the Fair Pay to Play Act.
Newsom famously signed the bill on the set of Lebron James’ HBO show “The Shop”.
“Colleges reap billions from these student-athletes’ sacrifices and success but, in the same breath, block them from earning a single dollar,” Newsom said in a statement. “That’s a bankrupt model – one that puts institutions ahead of the students they are supposed to serve. It needs to be disrupted.”
The NCAA made over $1 billion in revenue in 2018 alone. Much of that money is returned to the schools who are members of the organization, where it is used to fund their sports programs, coaches, administrators and scholarships for student-athletes. The students themselves are compensated only in financial aid and are forbidden to be paid in exchange for the use of their name, image or likeness
In 41 states, the highest-paid public employee is not a professor or neurosurgeon, but rather a college football or basketball coach. However, the players that they coach aren’t legally allowed to make a dime from their success.
The NCAA’s stance on the matter is that the student-athletes are considered amateurs so they should not be paid like professionals. Now that California wants to change this, the NCAA has discussed banning California schools from postseason play if they decide to compensate their athletes.
According to an analysis cited in The Economist, if players were paid in proportion to the amount of revenue they generated for their colleges, “the top 10 percent of football and 16 percent of basketball players would be paid around $400,000 and $250,000 a year respectively.”
Networks CBS and Turner pay over $1 billion dollars per year to broadcast the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament. The athletes involved in the tournament cannot see any of that money because they are considered amateurs. Yet, if it weren’t for them, there wouldn’t be a tournament.
Big companies are already profiting by branding college athletes with their specific apparel during games without paying them to do so. This is a system that needs to be changed because there is so much money in college sports to go around.
The student-athletes are the reason why people are tune in or purchase tickets. Why should the schools, coaches and the NCAA be the ones to reap the benefits when the athletes are putting their bodies and careers on the line?
A common counterargument to paying college athletes is that it can detract from the purity of the game.
However, that’s not entirely accurate. College athletes might give more effort than some professional athletes, but that is because they are trying to show they have the ability to play professionally.
Student-athletes already sacrifice so much as it is, they should be able to see a piece of the profit that is generated because of them.
The Fair Pay to Play Act gives power to student-athletes and puts the NCAA in a tricky situation. However, it is ultimately a step in the right direction and should benefit college sports more than it would hurt.