Since the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) inception, over 100 years ago, college athletes have been unpaid and unable to profit from their sport as the NCAA has barred them from receiving any financial gain besides the scholarship that they are awarded which enables them to attend the college in order to take part in NCAA competition. This is the rule for inside and outside of the school, so ranges from selling your image or name to a brand right down to someone paying $5 for an autograph, every financial gain, except the scholarship, is forbidden.
However, California has this week passed the Fair Pay to Play Act which means that for the first time, collegiate level athletes who attend college in the state of California will be able to make financial gains from their image, name and likeness. Other states can decide whether or not to follow suit by allowing their NCAA athletes to make the same financial gains but if certain states do not pass similar legislation then their college’s will undoubtedly suffer a large detriment due to the fact that athlete’s will surely prefer to attend a school that allows them to make more money instead of being at a school who continues to bar them from financial gains when they are in fact competing in the same competition as those schools who allow a financial gain to be made.
The result could be that a large imbalance in talent would arise as the best athletes may end up selecting the schools who permit financial gain over those who do not, even if the latter historically ran a better programme. This being said, many other states are already drawing up bills so that they can propose them to their state houses in order to pass similar legislation thus allowing their state college stars to also financially gain.
Whilst the NCAA claims that this move will create many more unseen problems, such as third party organisations becoming involved in college matters and that ultimately money will ruin college level sport, many have been calling for the change as college athletes were essentially working and performing as free labour whilst the coaches are paid multi-million dollar contracts, the schools themselves earn tens of millions each season for TV rights and also sponsorship deals with brands such as Nike or Adidas, yet never gave any of this income to its athletes. Whilst the new law does not mean that colleges must pay their players, it does make it illegal for colleges to stop athletes from earning money through outside organisations.
Before this bill was passed, the NCAA had threatened to ban any athletes who accepted outside finances but as it is looking increasingly likely that many more states will enact similar legislation it is hard to see them banning their top stars.
Whilst there are still some restrictions in place, such as athletes being unable to sign a deal with a brand that is a competitor to their schools sponsorship deal and the bill not coming into effect until 2023, it does look as though college sport is going to continue to expand and with it athletes will be, for the first time, able to financially gain.
The NCAA Board of Governors is due to meet in Atalanta on October 28th and 29th in order to discuss the topic and to decide what the next steps for the organisation are to be.