California Governor, Gavin Newsom, signed into law a bill that will change the face of collegiate sports forever. Last month, he signed into law California Senate Bill 206 that becomes effective in 2023. This bill states that college athletes will be able to receive compensation from individuals and corporations interested in using their images. The athletes will be able to secure agents and sell their images and signatures for payment. Player representatives will be limited in their ability to market the player and are restricted from marketing to prospective professional teams.
The decision by the Governor is to be applauded as it addresses a long thought out concern of “pay for play” for college athletes. It has long been argued that many players receive compensation with athletic scholarship awards for many of their expenses, but is that enough? Some players marry and have families in college while others come from impoverished environments at home and struggle financially. On the flip side, there are some gray areas that need to be addressed in relation to a wide variety of concerns.
There are a few examples I’d like to site that may be a red flag over the next four years. First, and most obvious, are the logistics of compensating the players. If the plan is to compensate every player on the team that’s one thing, but if it only benefits the marquee player then it won’t work. Teams are comprised of many different skill positions and each one contributes accordingly. Not all are starters, but each participates none the less. Then there are those players that are starters in positions that rarely generate any fanfare. And of course, there exist those players that colleges market as exceptional media darlings. The image of these players can be seen on game day and are packaged for recruitment purposes. So, the question is how can compensating these young athletes be fair and equitable? Does every member of the team get paid the same? What about the player on the bench that never plays or the true freshman who is simply learning the system? Also let’s not forget those sports that have been deemed as non-revenue generating. Programs such as Lacrosse, rowing, golf, softball, and tennis; are those players going to be compensated? Many of these programs are beneficiaries of the predominant sports, like football and basketball. Lastly, what impact will Bill 206 have during the recruitment process? Schools like Alabama and Ohio State in football, and NC State in basketball could suffer because of the pay for play scenario in the West. Of course, the NCAA will have a problem with the Governor because they will be forced to relinquish some control over the fiduciary aspect of college athletics from merchandising to media sales.
The one positive is that SB 206 will do more good than harm. It has generated a dialogue that will evolve into a practical application of compensating college athletes. There will be no more empty words on the topic but constructive action in making it work.
I personally am tipping my hat to Governor Newsom. Well done Sir!