The NCAA and the PAC-12 are among those who have issued a press release in response to the passage of California Senate Bill 206 that, in our opinion, only serves to create national confusion. Apparently, we are not alone.
Sadly, somewhat similar bills have been filed in Florida, South Carolina and New York. As is often the case, these respective legislators and governing bodies are completely ignoring the one law they should heed - the law of unintended consequences.
A press release from the NCAA's Director of Public and Media Relations states that a "patchwork of different laws from different states will make unattainable the goal of providing a fair and level playing field for 1,100 campuses and nearly half a million student-athletes nationwide."
The bill that was signed into state law on Monday by Governor Gavin Newsome says, in short, that beginning in 2023 college student-athletes in California would be able to begin receiving third-party compensation as a result of the use of their name, image or likeness.
The "Fair Pay To Play Act" also allows athletes to hire agents, in complete violation of NCAA rules. It puts state universities at odds with the governing body (NCAA) that is charged with keeping amateur athletics 'amateur'. It does anything but permit 'fair pay to play'. One could argue that it provides a recruiting advantage for California schools when, in reality, it puts any state institution that complies with the law in the cross-hairs of the NCAA Rules Violations committee.
This isn't the first time the NCAA has been challenged by irrational attempts to erase the boundary between amateur and professional athletics. In 2015, Northwestern University student athletes sought to unionize, but that effort was summarily rejected by the National Labor Relations Board. Quoting form a New York Times article on August 17, 2015, "the five-member board declined to exert its jurisdiction in the case and preserved, for now, one of the N.C.A.A.’s core principles: that college athletes are primarily students."
As a membership organization, the NCAA agrees changes are needed to continue to support student-athletes, but improvement needs to happen on a national level through the NCAA’s rules-making process. Unfortunately, this new law already is creating confusion for current and future student-athletes, coaches, administrators and campuses, and not just in California.
We will consider next steps in California while our members move forward with ongoing efforts to make adjustments to NCAA name, image and likeness rules that are both realistic in modern society and tied to higher education.
As more states consider their own specific legislation related to this topic, it is clear that a patchwork of different laws from different states will make unattainable the goal of providing a fair and level playing field for 1,100 campuses and nearly half a million student-athletes nationwide.
The Pac-12 is disappointed in the passage of SB 206 and believes it will have very significant negative consequences for our student-athletes and broader universities in California. This legislation will lead to the professionalization of college sports and many unintended consequences related to this professionalism, imposes a state law that conflicts with national rules, will blur the lines for how California universities recruit student-athletes and compete nationally, and will likely reduce resources and opportunities for student-athletes in Olympic sports and have a negative disparate impact on female student-athletes.
Our universities have led important student-athlete reform over the past years, but firmly believe all reforms must treat our student-athletes as students pursuing an education, and not as professional athletes. We will work with our universities to determine next steps and ensure continuing support for our student-athletes.