PROVO — California decided to shake up college sports in a big way.
Monday’s signature to a law that allows athletes at California’s universities to be paid for their image, likeness and use of their name beginning in 2023 sounds like a great idea because the NCAA and schools have made billions off kids through big TV, shoe, clothing and corporate contracts.
But is it really what is right?
It is if the reform were nationally accepted. If not, it is stupid and will alienate California colleges and destroy the Pac-12. At the least, it sets the stage for a colossal fight between the NCAA and the state of California.
“This is going to be some fierce rumble,” predicted ESPN’s legendary Dick Vitale on Twitter.
What it means is college sports in California would become a semi-professional or professional enterprise under its Pay to Play Act. Unbridled, it would be a mess.
Schools like USC, UCLA, Stanford and Cal could be banned from NCAA championships, bowl games and even scheduling other schools outside the state.
Things would be fine if the rule applied across America from sea to shining sea. But it does not, although South Carolina, New York and Florida are studying similar laws, which may be even more aggressive.
It would certainly be a step closer to ending the hypocrisy of college sports where under-the-table booster money is being thrown all over the place anyway. It would just bring it out in the open and the very best, most talented would be able to bargain for their net worth.
But do we really want a supposed amateur game to be turned into more of a business than it already is? We’ve come so far from athletics being a fun thing for students and the local community to where corporate sponsorships and marketing money rule. This would add another layer to the level of commercialism.
The NCAA reacted to California’s law condemning the assault on amateurism, short-circuiting what should come from the national body of administrators and presidents that comprise the NCAA.
University of Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez announced the Badgers would no longer schedule games with California schools. And yes, that would include a matchup in the Rose Bowl.
The Pac-12 also objected to the law, saying the new California law conflicts with national rules, blurs the lines on how California schools recruit, would take money and resources from Olympic sports and really hurt female athletes.
The national discussion just got hotter Monday on such reforms, and solutions are all over the map.
California’s law would allow payments made by a third party to be held in trust, then paid out with ties to academic and educational yardsticks like GPA and progress toward graduation. Other states are looking at laws that would just allow a car dealership to directly pay a player for cutting a commercial.
This “opening the floodgates” of money would be hard to govern unless controlled by a national clearinghouse like the NCAA.
If California’s law, which is set to go into effect in 2023, pushes such reform along, then this is a good thing.
But if its immediate impact is that big athletic budget sponsors across the land take money away from their annual contribution for all the university’s sports programs and throw it at a shiny, attractive face or two that happen to play football or basketball, it definitely will hurt minor sports and women.
The fairness aspect is real. Remember when Jimmermania hit the nation and all kinds of entities, namely the NCAA and the university, cashed in on his name, jersey and face. He got nothing outside his scholarship stipend until he could turn professional. That moment, that one single time in his life he could have really juiced it, was not a right for him to enjoy financially.
Superstar LeBron James didn’t go to college, but if he did, he told Sports Illustrated he’d never have been able to cash in like others would have off his name.
”Coming from ... just from me and my mom, we didn’t have anything,” James explained. “We wouldn’t have been able to benefit at all from (a college selling a No. 23 jersey, selling out the arena for his games and being in the NCAA basketball video game). And the university would have been able to capitalize on everything that I would’ve been there for that year or two or whatever. I understand what those kids are going through. I feel for those kids who’ve been going through it for so long, so that’s why it was personal to me.”
Any star athlete that someone is willing to pay for appearances, a poster, a T-shirt image or endorsement should have the right, just like any other student, to take advantage of that moment. Only major changes in NCAA rules would allow that.
After all, all of them are just an ACL tear, concussion or fractured limb away from losing all their star power. Then they’d get nothing but the great educational scholarship to which they signed up for, and, yes, that’s nothing to sneeze at.
But it isn’t getting all they are worth at the moment.
In all fairness, a national reform is something that’s desperately needed.
Yes, it would give an advantage to major blue-blood programs with deep-pocket sponsors and boosters. So, what’s new about that?
The NCAA must get with the times and fix it, or others will do it for them.
Bring all the grift, graft and underground payments out from the shadows because it is going on all over the place anyway.
Just ask the FBI.