There must be a rumor going around that I somehow have influence in the state Legislature (so says the lawmaker who shall remain nameless who emailed me her displeasure with being associated with a column I wrote about her involvement in football-related legislation). With that said, I guess I’ll take a crack at something recently passed by the state Senate.
Senate Bill 206 passed the Senate 31-4 last week and it takes aim at the age-old issue of payment to intercollegiate athletes. Authored by Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, the bill essentially moves to treat college amateurs like Olympic athletes, meaning they couldn't be paid for their performances, but would be eligible to make money endorsing products. It's an interesting and new approach to this ongoing issue, but troubled, nonetheless.
Given my long history in college athletics, the argument for paying athletes is a flawed one, drawn by those who sit by and watch Power-5 conferences on primetime television and feel the schools are “making millions” while the kids can’t receive anything other than a free or reduced price education and some stipend money. Those who graduate under this system often do so free of student loans, which these days is worth its weight in gold.
Skinner too made the same tired comments about “raking in millions." Representing the district where Cal resides, I’m sure she’s under the impression that the Bears are sitting back and cashing in. Actually, quite the opposite. Cal is trying to balance a massive budget deficit and is looking into cutting sports and opportunities for student-athletes. Research failed.
I’m here to tell you right now most schools aren’t making any money, let alone millions. Additionally, there are only a handful of institutions that have athletics departments that turn a profit. Most of the money is passed right back through to the programs in the form of more scholarships for student athletes, more sports offerings, coaches, tutors, staff and people whose job it is to care for young people. Claiming that college programs are “making millions” on the backs of student-athletes is an ignorant approach levied by those without an understanding of how the business works.
Ask the student-athletes and of course they want to be compensated. Ask any 20-year-old if you should give them money and 99.9 percent will say “yes.” However, they fail to understand that payments to athletes mean fewer sports get offered, gender-equity is gutted and departments shrink. Great for football and basketball-heavy schools, but not for anyone playing baseball, softball, soccer or running track.
SB 206 allows student-athletes to land endorsement deals. While this on the surface doesn’t look to have an impact on athletic department budgets, it will further tip the scales between the “haves” and the “have-nots” in college sports. Players at large schools with huge star-power will have the ability to bring in millions, making the advantage that institution has on recruiting even greater. One flaw I see.
Additionally, there is no way on God’s green Earth that if his becomes law in the state of California that the NCAA will allow it as it violates pretty much every one of their amateur rules. The NCAA could exclude California institutions from their organization, which would be the end to college athletics in the Golden State. Well played, Sacramento.
The California State University, University of California, USC and Stanford have all opposed this bill, but yet somehow that still didn’t stop another know-it-all lawmaker from trying to garner a few headlines, and 30 of her colleagues from blindly pushing through an agenda that would be harmful to young people. Special thanks to our own state Sen. Shannon Grove for standing against this nonsense; hopefully when this is sent to the Assembly floor it meets its end. Otherwise it’s the end for college sports in California.
Corey Costelloe has covered NCAA, professional and local sports for more than 20 years as a reporter and broadcaster. A THS graduate, he now resides in Tehachapi. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed are his own.