Last month, the California State Assembly voted 73-0 to pass the “Fair Pay to Play Act,” which will allow collegiate student-athletes to be compensated for their name and likeness, something that has been long outlawed by the NCAA.
The bill has been signed by the governor but won’t officially go into effect until January of 2023, and is already facing harsh backlash from the NCAA.
I have always been of the opinion that student athletes should be able to profit from endorsement deals and things of that nature. According to an audit released in 2018, the NCAA generates over $1.05 billion in revenue each year. It’s only fair that the players get a piece of the pie for themselves.
After all, athletes and teams are often the face of their respective universities. For example, awareness of our university’s existence likely increased after Darrell Brown, Elijah Childs and company gave eventual national semifinalist Michigan State a run for its money (or shall I say scholarships) in the first round of March Madness seven months ago.
However, the rationale that this bill is the end-all-be-all for compensation of all collegiate athletes is simply false.
To stick with the Bradley example, the only players that would be likely to receive endorsement deals would be a select number of players on the aforementioned men’s basketball team.
The premise of the bill is fair in the sense that the popular athletes in revenue-generating sports would be compensated. After all, the vast majority of the $1 billion the NCAA generates comes from men’s basketball (specifically March Madness TV contracts) and football.
The bill is unfair in the sense that only approximately one percent of athletes will be paid.
Unfortunately, there is not a better solution, especially for mid-major institutions such as Bradley. It would be borderline impossible to pay every single athlete.
Many schools likely do not generate enough money to compensate every one of their athletes, considering most schools only have one or two sports that make their athletic department money.
Sports law expert and university president Gary Roberts was recently quoted in the Peoria Journal Star that he could “conceive of a day when schools like Bradley don’t have sports.”
While this statement ruffled some feathers, including those of ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas, Roberts is correct. If there were a time where Bradley had to pay all of their athletes, it would likely lead to the loss of all but a few programs.
According to the audit, the NCAA spends about $956 million in expenses. If the remaining $98 million remaining after expenses were allocated to paying each of the 460,000 NCAA athletes, each athlete would receive approximately $213.94 per year. That’s hardly enough to cover the cost of books for a semester.
Athletes deserve more than that for their time. Additionally, many athletes and programs are worth more than others, and hence, would demand more money.
Under a system like that, big schools that coin money thanks to powerhouse programs, such as Alabama football and Duke basketball, would be reluctant to split that money with the Bradleys of the world.
The “Fair Pay to Play Act” will be a step in the right direction that would open up opportunities for many athletes, if the NCAA doesn’t find a way around it.
In a perfect world, every single collegiate athlete would be paid, no matter what school they attended, or what sport they played. But we all know we don’t live in a perfect world.
One day, we may live in a time when student-athletes, the NCAA and schools of all sizes live in perfect harmony, resulting in fair pay for all, but you won’t catch me holding my breath.