California started the ball rolling a little over a month ago with Governot Gavin Newsome signing a bill called the Fair Pay to Play Act. This allowed college athletes in the state of California to be able to make money off of their likeness. This mean that with a few exceptions the athlete will now be able to take money and not be penalized by the school or the NCAA. So Exactly what is the Fair Pay to Play Act?
Out with the old rules
Previously a student athlete was basically not allowed to take any money from anybody or he would be deemed ineligible by NCAA rules. If he/she wanted to sign autographs for fans of the team, they could do so but could not receive any money for them. They were also unable to sign an endorsement deal, or do a commercial for a company. Seems antiquated huh?
In addition, student athletes were obviously not allowed to take money from anybody, whether it is a friend, booster, or affiliate of the school, but they were not allowed to even take a free meal if offered! And all of this while the NCAA, the schools, and just about everybody else involved in these sports were making a lot of money! Definitely does not sound very fair to me.
How much money?
So just to put this into context, the NCAA had almost $1.1 BILLION in annual revenue for the fiscal year of 2017. And with that money, a lot of it is going to the head coaches of these college programs. Football of course leads the way as would be expected, with Dabo Swinney of the Clemson Tigers just getting a 10-year, $93 million contract now the highest paid college coach. Nick Saban isn’t too far behind at $8.3 million, and Jim Harbaugh at $7.5 Million.
You might think that it is only football that has outrageous salaries, but NCAA basketball coaches are not too far behind. In fact, Mike Krzyzewski is making more than every football coach except Swinney, at $8.9 million a year. John Calipari isn’t too far behind at $7.1 million. Although women’s sports do not pay quite as well, Geno Auriemma will be getting over $13 million for 5 years with his newest contract extension to be the women’s basketball coach at the University of Connecticut.
The money does not stop there though! Texas A&M recently renovated Kyle Field, where the Aggies play football, to a tune of $450 million! The University of Oklahoma did the same to their stadium, cost $370 million. Husky Stadium was renovated for $250 million for the University of Washington. University of Michigan upgraded the big house for $226 million. Just about every major college program has improved their stadiums in the last 10-15 years, and that does not even include the state of the art training facilities that are found on every campus these days.
What about scholarships?
Yes, these student athletes do typically get some kind of scholarship, especially the top end players. Which if used to earn a degree can be invaluable to these young adults as they move forward in life. With the amount of money being made off of the skills of these athletes, however, it seems like they are still getting shortchanged.
Let’s say an athlete decided to go to the University of Alabama, where we just talked about the fact that football head coach Nick Saban makes $8.3 million a year (head basketball coach Avery Johnson is making over $2.8 million just in case you were wondering). If he/she is lucky enough to live in Alabama already, the tuition plus room and board and other expenses would be about $29,000 a year. If they are from out of state, you are looking at a little over $46,000.
Doing the math, you have a head coach making $33.2 million over a 4-year stretch, while the student athlete will be “making” either $116,000 or $184,000 over the same 4 years. Just for reference, keeping with football numbers, Bill Belichek is making between $10-12 million/year. The lowest salary for the New England Patriots players is $510,000, given to safety Mailik Grant. That is slightly higher than $46,000 even though the coaching salaries are similar.
Am I Suggesting Paying Players?
I would definitely not be against it. College sports stopped being something that students did in their spare time from going to class and studying a long time ago. These student athletes have become much more athlete and far less student in recent years. With the professional leagues putting rules on how old you have to be to partake in their leagues, athletes often times do not have much of a choice, either go to college or try to go overseas and play in another country’s league, which works sometimes in basketball but obviously not for a sport like football.
That being said, I can understand the difficulties with paying their players. Not only do you have the bigger media sports, but there are also many smaller sports that would want their share of the pie as well. How do you split up the money? Since there are some schools which have more money than others how do you keep a somewhat level playing field? A profit sharing program works in professional leagues with 30 or so teams, but when you are talking 100’s of colleges in a given sport is becomes much more complicated.
That’s where the new Fair to Play Act comes in
If you can’t pay the players directly, let them make their own money. Now instead of seeing your favorite NFL player selling Nike’s on TV, you can see your favorite college player next to them. Go get your Clemson Trevor Lawrence jersey (that you bought last year, but now he can get some of the proceeds) signed by Trevor Lawrence himself. I guarantee it will be cheaper than getting it in a few years when he is throwing to NFL receivers.
This act makes so much sense that it is amazing that it has taken this long to create. I can’t think of any other profession that tells you that you cannot make money off of basically yourself. This new act will allow the students to hire agents and accept endorsements. Although this new law will not go into effect until 2023, this is finally a good step in the right direction
More importantly, it has forced the NCAA’s hands. Not even a month after the California Fair to Play act was signed into law, the NCAA’s Board of Governors announced that they had voted unanimously to allow student athletes to make money off of their names. This will go into effect no later than January 2021. Simply amazing how the timing of that vote lined up with the California decision isn’t it?
Even with the NCAA voting to allow athletes to make money, it has yet to be determined what exactly will be allowed and what will not. The NCAA has not been the most trustworthy when it comes to looking out for their student athletes. Other states have introduced bills similar to California’s, so that should push the NCAA into doing the right thing, or risk losing many of the colleges that have helped make it so much money in recent years.
I am sure there are a lot of players that are excited about this new ruling, but hopefully it is just one step followed by many more. The next few years will be interesting for sure.
This is definitely a hot button issue, so what are your thoughts on the subject? Please leave your comments and questions below, I would love to discuss this with you. Should student athletes be allowed to make money off of their own likeness? Will this be a good thing for college sports? Only time will tell!