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Should We Pay Collegiate Student-Athletes? California Did.

October 4, 2019

Every once in a while, we, at Torgenson Law, like branch out from the realm of personal injury law to provide our readers with other interesting legal news or information. This week, we have seen major developments that impact the NCAA and potential compensation for collegiate athletes. Specifically, California Governor, Gavin Newsom, recently signed into law the Fair Pay to Play Act. This new California law will allow college athletes in the state of California to hire agents and sign endorsement deals. While the Act is not set to go into effect until 2023, it will undoubtedly have major implications on the future of college sports. 

There is no question that the NCAA has and continues to oppose any and all laws or movements that promote compensation for college athletes. The main justification for the NCAA’s stance against paying athletes is founded in its idea of amateurism. For the NCAA, amateurism promotes the principle that college athletes are first and foremost, students. The NCAA’s fear is that by paying athletes, education would become an afterthought, which inhibits the NCAA’s ability to promote the well-being and lifelong success of student-athletes. Moreover, the NCAA is concerned that paying student-athletes will disrupt the competitive balance of its leagues. For example, if one NCAA institution has more resources to pay its players, the highly coveted and talented athletes would be even more inclined to attend those schools rather than smaller schools with fewer resources. This talent gap could create a massive competitive disparity and further harm the athletic programs at smaller schools.

However, given the fact that the NCAA is a billion dollar industry and considering the millions of dollars in revenue its member institutions rake in through their athletic departments, the call for student-athlete compensation is understandable and louder than ever. After all, many college coaches’ salaries exceed $5 million per year. Why not pay the athletes that sacrifice their blood, sweat, and tears and put fans in the stands? The universities are free to use athletes name, image, and likeness to promote their brand and sell merchandise. Why not allow student-athletes to profit of the same?

These are precisely the issues the California legislation addresses, but what are the implications? Holding strong to their support of amateurism, the NCAA has already threatened to ban California member colleges from competing in postseason events or otherwise discipline these schools once the new legislation takes effect. Could this lead California schools and their competitive rivals like Arizona State and the University of Arizona form a new college sports division or organization? Whatever the case, other states are moving forward with their own legislative proposals similar to California’s Fair Pay to Play Act. Regardless of where you stand on the issue of paying student-athletes, the California law and the NCAA’s potential legal response could be the start of major shifts in the landscape of college sports that go far beyond simply college athlete compensation. Only time will tell where things go from here.

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