by Peter Desler (’21)
The NCAA is watching their power and influence fall around them, and there is very little they can do about it. Gavin Newsom, California’s Governor, recently signed a bill that will allow college athletes to benefit off of their name and likeness. They will be able to sign endorsement contracts with large companies like Nike or Adidas, although the schools themselves cannot pay the athletes. The Fair Play To Play Act will take effect in 2023, finally allowing college athletes to have a piece of the billion dollar industry they generate. “Every single student in the university can market their name, image and likeness, they can go and get a YouTube channel, and they can monetize that,” Newsom said. “The only group that can’t are athletes. Why is that?”
Newsom raises an intriguing point, especially when considering the NCAA’s track record in issues such as these. Donald De La Haye, a kicker for the University of Central Florida in 2017, was deemed ineligible by the NCAA due to his monetization of his YouTube channel. The NCAA fashions themselves as a non-profit, and yet they bring in a revenue of billions of dollars. The NCAA has lobbied against the measure, calling it “unconstitutional” and saying they would “consider next steps in California.” The Pacific-12, the west coast conference in the NCAA, has also lobbied against it. Several influential universities, including Stanford, Southern California, and California have additionally come out against it. The Pac-12, which contains four California universities, said in a separate statement that the law would “lead to the professionalization of college sports and many unintended consequences.” The reason for the stances of these Universities is that if the NCAA declares the school’s teams ineligible to compete, they could miss the opportunity to appear in the College Football Playoff, or March Madness, which would take a significant chunk out of the schools profits. These televised moments help the school rake in over $100 million per year. If the bill survives the roadblocks that the NCAA will inevitably put in its place, it will apply to the state’s biggest college sports programs, such as Cal, Stanford, and USC, as well as the state’s smaller sports programs. The only thing to do now is wait. As California has passed the bill, states like Texas and Florida may follow suit. The snowball effect could be profound, and possibly leading to the downfall of the NCAA as sports fans know it.