• Amanda Daoud

Show Me the Money – The Race to Going Pro in College

Updated: Apr 14


The NCAA has no choice but to stand with the college athletes. [14]


We see it happen every fall – college football begins, followed by basketball season, and the question is once again raised, should collegiate athletes be paid? The NCAA, a multi-billion dollar industry, has rejected this idea for decades. Traditionalists of the organization have argued that the amateurism rule, limiting players’ compensation to tuition, room and board, and a small cost-living stipend, is necessary and justified because it protects and enhances athletes’ educations by strictly relying on scholarships. This has been the case since 1906 when the association was founded. But in the modern era of broadcast and television, which for example, allows the NCAA to profit millions of dollars based on a single March Madness, the question rises again, with the NCAA benefiting off of “amateur athletes,” is a scholarship enough? Many legislatures say no, leaving the NCAA with no choice but to support the movement in allowing student athletes to earn compensation based on their identity.[1]

The push for this idea began September 2019 when Gov. Gavin Newsom of California signed the Fair Pay to Play Act into law and became the first state to give legal right to college athletes. The act allows players to earn compensation for commercial use of their identities and is scheduled to go into effect January 1, 2023. Although traditionalists in the NCAA argued that this decision undermines the concept of collegiate sports being at the amateur level, the California legislature rebutted by stating, the NCAA prohibiting this conduct is unconstitutional.[2]

With the California legislature being the first to start the movement, many other states began to inquire some arguing that this would put their state schools recruiting at a disadvantage, while others solely wanted in on this player benefit.[3] This past summer, the Florida legislature stole California’s spotlight as it approved its bill which allows college athletes in the state of Florida to earn compensations from their name, image, and likeness (NIL) beginning July 1, 2021, a long 18 months before California’s Act goes into play. [4]

In signing the bill, Rep. Chip LaMarca (R-Fl.), said “[t]oday’s action in the Florida Legislature for our more than 11,000 collegiate athletes tells the NCAA that we won’t stand for greedy rules that put athletes at a disadvantage…Wearing a school’s jersey shouldn’t mean choosing between your talent and earning extra money to support your education.”[5]

The unique options for Florida collegiate athletes to earn compensation based on their NIL will be endless. Next summer, we may see star athletes from dominant sports like basketball and football selling jerseys with their name on it or less popular sports, such as gymnastics, holding special clinics in the athlete’s name. Additionally, injured athletes may even have the opportunity to get creative and earn compensation by representing medical equipment, such as crutches or a knee brace. The opportunities for athletes in the state of Florida to take advantage of their identity without worrying about violating regulations will enter into the uncharted territory that is long overdue.

While the Florida legislature said the purpose of this bill is to give the athletes the opportunity they deserve in earning compensation based on their NIL, other states fear that this is going to skew the recruiting process. Specifically, NCAA president Mark Emmert and other college sports stakeholders said that the “patchwork” of state law has created an unequal recruiting advantage compared to the 49 other states.[6]

Ready or not, the race to athlete compensation justice is now on and the time is ticking fast for the NCAA to make its next move. The Florida legislature has created an expected urgency to the nationwide movement toward creating more opportunities for athletes to benefit from the billions of dollars generated each year by the college sports industry, leaving the NCAA no choice but to stand with them.

This past April, the NCAA’s board of governors announced its support in the proposal to allow athletes to accept endorsements but wanted to implement some “guardrails” to maintain a clear distinction between college sports and professional leagues. [7] The NCAA has called on Congress to codify these “guardrails,” and to set a national standard for college athletes’ ability to make money, while still making certain restrictions to preserve the “collegiate model” of sports. Overall, with the help of Congress, the NCAA would put a limit to the new Florida law, while granting other states the ability to allow their athletes to benefit off of their NIL. [8]

Recently, Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio), a former Ohio State and NFL receiver, and Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) introduced their version of a bipartisan bill that would allow student-athletes to receive financial benefits from the commercial use of their NIL. [8] Gonzalez said “[t]he college athlete, as it sits today, is the only person in America who cannot capitalize off their name, image or likeness… just allowing the athletes to have the same economic rights as everyone else is an important step forward.” [9]

With the Florida law becoming official, Congress has less than 13 months to pass federal legislation to preempt state law. The problem, however, is that Congress is respectively more focused on the coronavirus pandemic and upcoming presidential election, rather than collegiate athletics. [10]

While many sports fans across the country applaud the Florida legislature in showing support to student athletes’ rights to compensation, it is crucial that Congress acts soon to create a standard for each of the 50 states to follow. The nation may see chaos in the recruiting process as athletes will be drawn to Florida schools to benefit from its advantages, creating an unfair opportunity for other state schools to successfully recruit without federal law. While athletes definitely deserve the long, overdue ability to benefit off of their NIL, it is important that all schools are granted the right to participate to sustain an equal recruiting environment across the nation. The call to Congress is needed in the sports world now more than ever before. [13]



References:


[1] Hruby, P. (2018, September 20). The NCAA says paying athletes hurts their education. That's laughable. Retrieved October 21, 2020, from https://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/college/ct-spt-paying-college-athletes-ncaa-commentary-20180920-story.html


[2] Gutierrez, M., & Fenno, N. (2019, September 30). California will allow college athletes to profit from endorsements under bill signed by Newsom. Retrieved October 20, 2020, from https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2019-09-30/college-athlete-endorsement-deals-ncaa-california-law


[3] Id.


[4] Berkowitz, S. (2020, June 12). Florida legislators send college-athlete name, image and likeness bill to governor. Retrieved October 21, 2020, from https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/college/2020/03/13/florida-legislators-send-college-athlete-name-image-bill-governor/5041474002/


[5] Id.


[6] Murphy, D. (2020, June 12). Florida name, image, likeness bill now a law; state athletes can profit from endorsements next summer. Retrieved October 21, 2020, from https://abcnews.go.com/Sports/florida-image-likeness-bill-now-law-state-athletes/story?id=71221572


[7] Id.


[8] Giambalvo, E. (2020, June 23). As the NCAA asks Congress for help on NIL legislation, lawmakers want more rights for college athletes. Retrieved October 22, 2020, from https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2020/07/23/ncaa-asks-congress-help-nil-legislation-lawmakers-want-more-rights-college-athletes/?outputType=amp


[9] Dellenger, R. (2020, August 13). Senators Announce Proposal for 'College Athletes Bill of Rights'. Retrieved October 20, 2020, from https://www.si.com/college/2020/08/13/senators-announce-college-athletes-bill-of-rights-proposal


[10] Eaton, S. (2020, September 24). Former Buckeyes star Anthony Gonzalez introduces bill to let college athletes make endorsement deals. Retrieved October 20, 2020, from https://www.cleveland.com/open/2020/09/former-buckeyes-star-anthony-gonzalez-introduces-bill-to-let-college-athletes-make-endorsement-deals.html


[11] Murphy, supra.


[12] Feinstein, J. (2020, June 04). Perspective | College sports needs reform, and Congress has a better shot than the NCAA. Retrieved October 22, 2020, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2020/06/01/college-sports-needs-reform-congress-has-better-shot-than-ncaa/


[13] Feinstein, J. (2020, June 04). Perspective | College sports needs reform, and Congress has a better shot than the NCAA. Retrieved October 22, 2020, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2020/06/01/college-sports-needs-reform-congress-has-better-shot-than-ncaa/


[14] Ramsey, K. (2020, May 29). NCAA Athletes: Time to Pay Players For Their Name, Image ... Retrieved October 22, 2020, from https://unafraidshow.com/ncaa-pay-college-athletes-name-image-likeness/