For decades, the debate over collegiate athletes being allowed to earn money has been tackled, voiced and squandered in a seemingly never-ending cycle by sports and news pundits alike. That is, until earlier this week, when California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a new bill titled the Fair Pay to Play Act. A bill that will be enacted in 2023, the timeframe between now and then will see more states passing similar legislature, pending that the NCAA does not call to action a rule of their own beforehand.
Will this mean all athletes get paid? No, not really. A common myth surrounding the bill is that it will destroy the ecosystem that is college sports, causing all the best players to go only the best schools, unbalancing the scales. What the bill actually allows for is the ability for athletes that receive endorsements (Saquon Barkley with Nike or Baker Mayfield with Hulu) to be able to obtain the money they deserve for their work. Up until this point, the companies and schools that the player is with, receive all of that.
This could also greatly benefit women’s sports from an all-encompassing realm. Male sports will still dominate in terms of salary, but the ability to level the scales could start right here. In the past, women’s sports have not been profitable, unless you are the elite of the elite. With women such as UCLA gymnast Katelyn Ohashi potentially getting paid for all the hard work they do, it allows for the field to become more competitive and overall, more entertaining.
While every student’s first priority should be getting a good foundational education that can set them up for success in life, being a student-athlete in some cases can feel more like a full-time job. The training, traveling, press talks, all make up what is currently a $14 billion industry, one that continues to entertain an absurdly large audience with its spectacle view of the American dream. It comes to a point where the conversation needs to be had, is what these kids do more than the average student?
So what would happen if the NCAA does not act before 2023? With many states now following in California’s footsteps the idea of them not stepping in is seeming more and more unlikely. Unless every state passes their own law, we could potentially see entire states losing their athletic programs, as players would more than likely prefer to be at a school that assures them money for their work. That alone could be the end of the NCAA altogether, giving a whole new meaning to the term fair play.