The topic of whether or not college athletes should be paid has been an ongoing debate for years, and now it’s finally on the table.
In October, The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Board of Governors, which oversees college sports, voted unanimously to adjust rules that prevented players from earning money from their name, image and likeness.
The board’s decision was in response to the California governor signing the Fair Pay to Play Act. Under the new law, schools wouldn’t pay athletes but college players could hire agents to pursue sponsorship and endorsements, beginning 2023. It was a win-win for lawmakers in California because they knew the NCAA would have to respond, and that other states would follow suit, or risk losing recruits to colleges in California. In response, several other states have introduced similar proposals.
The NCAA had no choice but to make the next move. But before student athletes can start pulling in profits, the board has to consider exactly what adjustments should be made to its current policy, which restricts college athletes from monetizing their talent at all. The current system is set up like indentured servitude, where athletes sign a renewable contract and agree to play in exchange for a tuition-free education and modest stipend.
I want to highlight how if the NCAA makes modifications similar to California’s bill, it would create an equitable system for college athletes to be compensated. This includes creating financial opportunities beyond scholarships, which don’t cover all of their costs.
While we know star athletes at large institutions who play sports like football and basketball would likely have the most financial opportunities, NCAA modifications would put all athletes in a better position to earn money. This is significant for women, for example, who don’t have the same professional opportunities as men in sports.
Besides hiring agents to seek out endorsements and sponsors, college athletes could generate money from jersey sales, hosting clinics and training sessions, booking speaking engagements, signing autographs and marketing themselves on social media.
The NCAA is a multi billion-dollar business that – along with its member institutions and coaches – has gained substantial wealth from the labor of uncompensated student-athletes, who they consider amateurs. Meanwhile, those so-called amateurs are putting in nearly the same amount of hours per week as professional athletes, while pursuing a degree.
The idea of amateurism at the collegiate level is obsolete, and so is the notion that student-athletes making money compromises their education. Let’s be honest, if 6am workouts, two-a-days and weekly travel doesn’t jeopardize an athlete’s education, nothing will.
Times have changed and its past time for the NCAA to discontinue its dictatorship to develop a partnership with its athletes.
Note: In 2015, NCAA Division I colleges from Power Five conferences (SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and PAC-12) as well as Notre Dame implemented a rule that prevents the scholarships of student-athletes at these universities from being canceled due to any athletic reason. D1 colleges outside of Power Five conferences can choose to follow this rule but aren’t required to do so.