Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

On paying college athletes

In case you missed this news out of California.

California is going to pass this likeness rights bill and boy howdy does the NCAA not like it

California Senate Bill 206, otherwise known as the Fair Pay to Play act, is rapidly approaching becoming law. The TL;DR of the legislation is that would allow athletes to monetize their name and likeness without penalty from the NCAA, something they currently cannot do. On Monday, the bill passed the California State Assembly by a 72-0 vote. On Wednesday night, it cleared the state senate. It is just waiting on the governor.

The NCAA responded on Wednesday with well, more threats. From USA TODAY:

“If the bill becomes law and California’s 58 NCAA schools are compelled to allow an unrestricted name, image and likeness scheme, it would erase the critical distinction between college and professional athletics and, because it gives those schools an unfair recruiting advantage, would result in them eventually being unable to compete in NCAA competitions”

As if this threat wasn’t enough, the letter also said the NCAA believes this bill is unconstitutional.

Ohio State and former UC Irvine president Michael Drake, in an interview with USA TODAY, echoed those threats, saying:

He said California schools “certainly” would be barred from participating in NCAA championships. Asked whether California schools would be able to compete against other NCAA schools at all, Drake said: “When the bill is passed and fully analyzed, we’d be more clear about its effect on other competitions. Let me say that I know specifically it would restrict their ability to compete in championships because the students would have been competing under a different set of rules.”

Let’s get one thing straight right now. The NCAA is not going to ban all the California schools

I get why they have to say this now, but this falls under a rich history of empty threats from university administrators, right up there with Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney saying the Big Ten would drop to DIII if they had to share revenues with athletes.

Regardless of what NCAA rules state, lopping off California is a logistical and financial impossibility. Potentially locking themselves out of so many huge TV markets, plus losing so many potential teams for their marquee event, the NCAA Tournament (laugh all you want about the Pac-12, but California also includes regular NCAA participant Saint Mary’s, plus possible conference champions from the WAC, Big West, Big Sky and Mountain West), would make such a harsh penalty a nightmare for the NCAA’s business partners. Not to mention that penalty would also get thrown into the courts on antitrust grounds. USC and UCLA wouldn’t take that lying down.

If the state sponsoring this bill was like, Delaware, South Dakota, or Vermont, maybe the NCAA can get away with muscling them out. But not California (or Texas, or Florida, or any more major population center).

That’s from a newsletter published on September 11, so the bill is now law. There’s more there, and you can listen to a conversation with the author of that newsletter on the Slate podcast Hang Up and Listen (there are links with more info there as well). The podcast What Next also discussed it. The California law doesn’t take effect until 2023, in part to give the NCAA some time to address the issue on their own. It also means that other states will have time to pass their own laws, which may up the ante. Given the number of Division I colleges in Texas – I can think of at least 16 – our weird predeliction to be anti-California, and the stakes at play, I could imagine someone filing a bill to do the opposite here, to forbid any college athlete from making money in any fashion that isn’t currently allowed. Never underestimate our state’s ability to do the wrong thing. Anyway, I thought this was interesting. What do you think?

Related Posts:


  1. John says:

    It is not law yet. Bill is sitting on Newsom’s desk to be signed

  2. C.L. says:

    I think….college football is nothing more than a farm team for the NFL, with a very large numbers of individuals only token students. Howabout the NFL create an actual semi-pro league like baseball and soccer, and cut out the middleman, paying these kids what they’re worth to the spectator?

    Full disclosure: With an average of <12 mins or less of actual play during a NFL game, I couldn’t care less than I already do about (college football or) the NFL.

  3. Tom in Lazybrook says:

    The problem is this. Only about 20 FBS programs are financially self supporting as it is. Add the expense of paying athletes and you get a bigger problem. No we cannot add more costs on top of it without severe reform to public institution athletic. financing.

    Here are the current athletic department deficits at Texas Public Universities and the associated higher tuition+fees that students must borrow in order to cover them in order to get a 4 year degree at one of them

    U. Houston. Loses 31.2 million per year. Extra cost of a 4 year degree as a result $2,700.

    N. Texas. Loses 25.5 million per year. 4 year incremental cost $2610.

    Texas State. 27.5 million. $2835
    UTEP. 20.9 million. $3318
    UTSA. 17.6 million. $1827
    Sam Houston 14 million. $2652
    SFA 14.5 million. $4407
    Lamar 14.8 million. $3950
    UTRGV 13 million. $1866
    UTA 10.7 million $1007
    TAMU-CC 10.1 million $3308
    Texas So. 9 million. $3511
    Texas Tech 3.3 million $300

    A&M and UT make money. If Im reading the NCAA report correctly, these losses are after all revenue and athletic department donations.

    This is an absolute scandal. Forcing a single mom trying to get her degree at night to pay up to 4 grand in involuntary fees so that they can pay some football or basketball coach 800k a year is appalling.

    And dont be fooled about the scholarship aspect, either. Most of the scholarships given are to persons from above average means. The also almost completely ignore immigrant, first generation, Latinx, non evangelical, AAPI, and LGBT students as well. And in coaching, its even worse. Female employees are paid far less too. And coaching is the almost exclusive preserve of native born, evangelical, white or African American persons. Everyone else is just paying the bill.

    And if youd like to see what the people forced to pay thousands for this spectacle (the students) feel about it, go to any sporting event at any of the above schools and take a look at the student section. Youll see plenty of empty seats. The students largely dont care either. Theyre probably working to pay for it.

    Adding another 5 to 10 million in costs per year across the board at each of these schools is going to be a problem we cant afford.

    And if you limited it to schools that can afford it, thered be about 35 schools plus private schools that would be able to do so without passing on those costs to the students. The NCAA would shrivel up and die.

    Hard no.

  4. Bill Daniels says:


    Thanks for that info. Curious where it came from, although I do find it believable. One thing, though, do those numbers take into account the amount of alumni donations that are generated, in part, by those programs? For example, does the UH number reflect the donations by Tilman Fertitta to his alma mater? Are the programs losing money after taking into account alumni donations?

  5. Tom in Lazybrook says:

    USA today publishes the AD deficits of every D1 public institution annually. You can find it using a google search of “athletic department subsidy usa today”. My understanding is that the numbers are net of all athletic revenue including donations, ticket sales, TV revenue, CFP/March Madness payouts.

    To get the 4 year degree estimate per student, i just divided the annual deficit by the number of students, then multiplied that number by 4

  6. Tom in Lazybrook says:

    Regarding UH and Fertitta. UH loses 31.2 million per year on athletics. Thats 312 million per decade. Fertitta aint coming close to making that up.