California law on athlete pay-for-play: Shock rumblings in Indianapolis


Photo Credit: Maridav

California’s recent legislation that will allow student-athletes to be compensated for their likeness and image has quickly gotten the attention of the NCAA – and as expected outrage has erupted.

The NCAA quickly contended that if programs and or boosters could pay players for their time and talent in fair market value, then the top talent would naturally funnel to the same schools and thus create an uncompetitive balance among its member institutions.

Huh, create? Many believe there is already an uncompetitive balance in major college sports. Many believe at a time when coaches at the highest levels of competition make millions of dollars annually in salaries that the time has come to share the wealth with the athletes that are responsible for the coaches’ earnings.

Head football coaches Dabo Sweeney (Clemson) and Nick Sabon (Alabama) each garner annual salaries in excess of $8 million. Clemson has an average annual football revenue of $77 million (according to Forbes), which puts the Tigers at only No. 25 in the country. Clemson has reported an average increase of 15 percent in football revenues over the last five years.

California lawmakers have studied these numbers for their schools, and have decided it’s time for the student-athlete to share some of the enormous profits that many of the Golden State universities are receiving.

The NCAA quickly and sternly voiced opposition to the California law, basically lamenting a rich-will-get-richer mentality, with the top talent level heading to the same programs.

The NCAA maintains that the value of a college education plus minimal living expenses is a fair and equitable compensation exchange between the athlete and his or her school.

So, for analogy, let’s simplify this using Clemson as the test case. The annual tuition for Clemson students living in South Carolina is slightly over $29,000. Out-of-state students pay about $50,000 per year.

The NCAA views a football player at Clemson as being compensated annually at either $29,000 or $50,000, depending on your state residency. Plus by NCAA mandate, student-athletes on scholarship are not permitted to have any outside employment during the school calendar year.

A highly skilled player earning at most $50,000 annually for a football program that has in excess of $77 million revenue annually is being fairly compensated.

And keep in mind that at $77 million Clemson just cracks the nation’s top 25 programs in yearly revenue.

California has started to possibly turn the pendulum toward a fairer and equitable way of compensation, and other states are already lining up with similar legislation.

New York, Florida and Illinois have already proposed similar bills, and a half-dozen other states plan to do so as well. And the pay-to-play proposal has also caught the attention of Congress to study a more effective nationwide mandate to address the issue.

So, the suits at the NCAA headquarters are beginning to sweat a bit. But has the genie already escaped the bottle?

Column by Scott German





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