California state Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) proposed a bill that would compensate college athletes from the state’s 24 public colleges for sponsorship opportunities. The “Fair Pay to Play Act” would also allow student-athletes to sign with agents while maintaining amateur status in order to ensure they are adequately represented while pursuing these new opportunities.
The bill would not, however, allow universities to pay students directly. Instead, it would allow students to benefit from uses of their “name, image, or likeness.” The bill cites a 2012 study by the National College Players Association and Drexel University Sports Management Program which estimated the fair market value for the average college basketball player at $137,357, while many live at or below the poverty line.
The bill would likely put the NCAA and California colleges on a direct collision course; the NCAA could ultimate deem any paid student-athletes ineligible to compete in college sports. If the NCAA bars these athletes from competing, it could have a crippling effect on college sports in California. If, however, the NCAA allows paid players to compete, it could open the door for other states to pass similar bills, permanently altering the landscape of amateur athletics.
In a 2015 case on the subject, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the NCAA did not need to require schools to compensate players for using their likeness.
Mike Klain is a Sports Highlight Contributor for the Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law and a current first year student at Harvard Law School (Class of 2021).