California bill allowing student athletes to profit off their likeness could alter college sports

Posted at 11:23 PM, Sep 10, 2019

Under current NCAA bylaws, student athletes are not allowed to earn money off their likenesses, but legislation in California is at odds with the NCAA's bylaws.

On Monday, the California House unanimously (73-0 margin) passed a bill that bars student athletes from being prohibited from making money off their likeness. A version of the bill had previously passed the state's Senate, but will need to go back to the Senate to approve some changes to the legislation.

The bill would allow student athletes to earn money off endorsements, autograph sessions and public appearances. The bill would not require colleges to pay athletes.

Complicating matters for the NCAA, the legislation would prohibit the NCAA from banning teams in California from participating in intercollegiate competitions. That point could force the NCAA to either make dramatic changes to its bylaws or take the state of California to court.

The legislation would be effective as of Jan. 1, 2023.

The NCAA said today in a statement, "The NCAA Board of Governors has monitored SB 206 as it has moved through the California legislative process. As we evaluate our next steps, we remain focused on providing opportunities and a level playing field for the nearly half a million student-athletes nationwide.”

In May, the NCAA announced the formation of a working group of college administrators. Their goal is to examine how to respond to legislation like the one put forth by California. Ohio State Director of Athletics Gene Smith said that the NCAA is not interested in having colleges directly paying student athletes.

“While the formation of this group is an important step to confirming what we believe as an association, the group’s work will not result in paying students as employees,” Smith said. “That structure is contrary to the NCAA’s educational mission and will not be a part of this discussion.”

The working group said in May it would provide an update in August, but so far, has not provided an update.

After the formation of the working group, the NCAA sent a letter to California lawmakers requesting for them to postpone consideration of the legislation, ABC News reported.

"When contrasted with current NCAA rules, as drafted the bill threatens to alter materially the principles of intercollegiate athletics and create local differences that would make it impossible to host fair national championships," NCAA President Mark Emmert wrote. "As a result, it likely would have a negative impact on the exact student-athletes it intends to assist."

While Emmert and others are staunchly against paying athletes, college athletics is flushed with money, and its practitioners are handsomely compensated. In 2016, the NCAA and CBS came to an $8.8 billion, eight-year extension to air the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament.

In 2012, ESPN agreed to a $7.3 billion deal through 2026 to air the College Football Playoff.

Smith knows that much of that money goes toward coaches. Ohio State's men's basketball coach is paid more than $7 million a season. Ohio State's new head football coach is paid $7.6 million.

The players are compensated with a college scholarship which generally includes room and board.

The bill has not only received bipartisan support, it has garnered support from athletes, including Lakers forward LeBron James.