On September 30, 2019, California signed into law the biggest change to college athletics in the modern era of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (“NCAA”). Senate Bill 206 will allow college athletes to profit from the use of their name, image, and likeness, as well as protect the athletes from sanctions by the NCAA for violations stemming from the profits. One of college athletics’ core tenants has been the amateurism of their athletes and the emphasis on scholarship. This monumental change will have far reaching and lasting impact on college athletics and may disrupt the whole system as we know it.
In February, California State Senators Nancy Skinner and Steven Bradford presented SB-206, titled the Fair Pay to Play Act, to the California State Senate. Founded on the principle of amateurism, which prohibits paying participants, the NCAA has never allowed intercollegiate student-athletes to earn any form of compensation. This bill seeks to end that prohibition in California and provide student-athletes the rights to their names, images, or likenesses (NIL). In May, the State Senate voted in favor of the bill, 31-5. After the necessary committees reviewed and amended the bill, the State Assembly unanimously passed the Fair Pay to Play Act in a 72-0 vote. Due to the changes, the amended bill went back to the State Senate, where it was unanimously approved, 39-0, on September 11. Governor Gavin Newsom has 30 days to sign, veto, or take no action and allow the bill to become law.
In March 2019, charges were brought against a number of National College Athletic Association (“NCAA”) athletic department personnel. These officials were found partaking in a fraudulent scheme which allowed affluent young adults to gain admission to elite universities under false pretenses, like fake test scores and phony athletic prowess. The actions of these athletic directors and coaches call into question the effectiveness of the NCAA monitoring and reporting methods to combat misuse and abuse of the athletic system. The NCAA and their institutions must learn from this most recent scandal to identify the problems in athletic compliance that allowed this fraud.
NCAA regulation is highly restrictive of the compensation of amateur athletes. Recent class actions have challenged the equity of such policies in light of the high levels of revenue generated by the organization and schools. Challenges to NCAA regulation may provide student-athletes greater ability to negotiate their compensation and to make money independently.
Last month Josh Rosen, a junior at UCLA who plays quarterback, was quoted by a national sports news website saying, “Football and school don’t go together.” Within hours UCLA’s coach and Stanford’s coach each tried to paint the young man as unenlightened.
Research shows that Rosen is more correct than the coaches admit, but that’s only part of the story. What’s news is that a twenty-year-old—not a university trustee or president, not a U. S. District Court judge or an antitrust lawyer—put his finger on a regulatory reality that higher education may not be able to ignore for much longer.