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California Passes Pay to Play for College Athletes – Will this Destroy College Sports?

California Passes Pay to Play for College Athletes – Will this Destroy College Sports?

Last week the California State Legislature unanimously passed the Fair Pay to Play Act, which will require large public and private universities in the state to let student athletes accept compensation for the use of their names, likenesses and images.

This is directly opposed to the NCAA’s regulations that say you cannot accept payment of any kind related to your college sports career, but the California bill forbids punishing any athlete who accepts compensation.

This bill faces numerous court hurdles (it is veto-proof having passed unanimously) but if this indeed becomes law, other states will have to consider the same measures and it may force a nationwide change in how student athletes are compenstated.

One might think this is a good thing, that the NCAA is just trying to make as much money as they can, and that being a student athlete is essentially indentured servitude. This may or may not be true, from various perspectives, but I see a different picture.

The NCAA is desperately trying to save college sports.

If they start paying student athletes or allow them to be paid through endorsements then I see the following.

1. The biggest name brand schools will have a huge new advantage in recruiting. Every athlete wants to be the next Michael Jordan and every one of them believes his compensation will be through the roof. The boosters from these biggest schools will make sure these are the highest paid players. In fact, anyone with broadcast rights has an incentive to make sure hiring funds are available, since recruiting these players is a top priority for viewership.

2. This will only benefit the top 1% (or less) of the athletes. Even if it becomes a booster club activity to launder money into the program to compensate the entire football and basketball teams, who is going to want to do this for the other scholarship sports? Volleyball, Tennis, Track and Field, Swimming, Gymnastics, etc., do not have the fame nor the booster support and are unlikely to get paid.

This only helps the prima donnas, 99% of student athletes will be out of luck.  And most schools will not be able to afford to do anything more for them, there are just too many.  Most student athletes will not become professional afterward, so if this interferes with their degree, they have sacrificed too much.

3. This will get out of control. In this litigious society, you can be sure that student athletes from other sports will cry discrimination when, for example, a popular men’s sport has more compensation than it’s women’s counterpart.  When compensation packages for the best players become known, it will be a source of resentment among players, and with the fans. New forms of corruption and exploitation, the likes of which we have never seen, will arise from nothing (see the Author’s comment below). Remember these are 17 year old kids, who know nothing about the real world. Exploitation anyone? They are ripe for the pickings.

4. The best athletes will become concentrated to a few schools. This might be a good thing, because then perhaps other student athletes will form a different organization and concentrate on their school work.

5.  This will destroy college sports. If the athletes are paid, they are no longer “student” athletes, the team is no longer really related to the school. Their fanbase is alumni. Alumni won’t care about a bunch of athletes that are not part of their University and won’t show up at the games.

No more 101,000 people filling the Alabama football stadium to see a game when the football players are just a bunch of hired guns, whom nobody ever sees around campus. Remember, the students of today are the alumni of tomorrow, they won’t support players who despise them. When the alumni lose interest, the booster clubs will stop paying the players and all will collapse. Motivations will no longer be aligned.

The major college sports that produce billions of dollars every year will evolve into farm teams like minor league baseball — money losers that have to be supported by the professional leagues.

And the multi-billion dollar machine that the NCAA is at the moment will be no more.

Perhaps the NCAA’s only option is to pull out of California and operate in the rest of the U.S. without them. The rest of the country would adjust, albeit without some of the best athletes in the system. But their revenue would be intact, because most universities have great programs and great fanbases without being NCAA champion every year.  California may do well for a while, but eventually their college system would collapse, as predicted above. Or perhaps Califronia would change its mind.

Author’s note:  I can’t help but think of Dwayne Johnson’s character in in the HBO series Ballers who at the close of the last season was in hot water for trying to make a lot of money for (and exploiting) a  talented high school player, to the point of starting a new network and blackmailing a college into handing over broadcast rights to get this player.

In the California regime, this would be possible and indeed likely.

The corruption this will cause will be staggering. Players will be exploited and hurt, and the few who would have made it anyway, will make a bit extra in college.

Doesn’t anyone see this?

How can this be good for the student athletes who are NOT in the top 1%? Or even if they ARE in the top 1%?

P.S.  My best expertise is in mass psychology, mass influence and alignment of motivations. I’ve done original research in the area and am pretty sure I know what I am talking about. These are not idle speculations – if the bill survives the court battles, these eventualities are a near certainty.

About The Author


  1. Gary Lewis

    Joe, You made one mistake in editing your article. You used “there” instead of their in the line which included: “eventually there college system would collapse” unless you meant to say that the college system out there would eventually collapse because of this majorly misguided mistake. But really they who make the decisions out there have really lost their minds if they think they’re going to make a corrupt system better .

  2. Fire21

    Just like the pros, too many college players are spoiled brats (think disrespecting our flag and anthem). I extremely seldom watch any college sports, and certainly don’t financially support any of them, so in reality, I couldn’t possibly care less.

  3. Marvin Shoaf

    They ARE being paid – Up to a $250,000.00 free College Education at no cost to them.

    • Joe Gilbertson

      One would think, but they would rather take a 1 in 10,000 shot at being a pro than to buckle down, study and get a sure thing.

  4. SteveLC

    I support that every athlete that is recruited (males and females) be at least be paid full scholarship, room and board and a reasonable stipend for personal needs. Many students especially those students from low income families their parents cannot afford to give them a monthly allowance, for food and clothing and personal needs. The scholarship should be guaranteed for eight years from day of signing. If an athlete is injured they would not be able to works a part-time job to earn funds for personal needs.

  5. Kristin Decker

    I totally agree with you on “Perhaps the NCAA’s only option is to pull out of California and operate in the rest of the U.S. without them.” However I think we should take it a step further and cut CA out from being a state of the United States. They no longer feel they must obey USA laws. Here are some examples of what I mean Sanctuary cities, many homeless people, feces laying around on the sidewalks & street and they don’t clean it up, illegal drugs like LSD, cocaine, heroine, barbiturates, etc., & now this with paying college sports kids where the NCAA has already made the rule to NOT PAY college sports players. They’ll do ANYTHING to be different and they are different. They march to a drummer of their own & it’s time they have a nation all their own to make up their own laws. It’ll be interesting to see just see how long it lasts LOL (if at all).

    • David Barron

      Why 8 years? I always thought college was 4 years to a Bachelors Degree? I highly doubt any professional athlete will go for a Masters of Doctorate. Academic performance should be an over ruling factor too. If the person does not maintain at least a 3.0 GPA then the scholarship is null and void.

  6. Carl J Bujan

    The only thing California is looking at is to collect taxes on the money athletes would make.

    • David Barron

      Where does that Payday money for the athletes come from, the tax payers! California tax payers must relish wallowing in more taxed imposed by the ruling class families that have controlled California for the last 60 years. Indeed the leaders took the Golden State and turned it into a huge debtor state. Ever wonder where all the money went?

  7. Kurt Walker

    Well what can you say. It is, after all, California. The state burns half the year, then the flood and mud slides come, the wait on the next earthquake is a daily worry, and Hollywood is a total embarrassment. But this paying college athletes is at the top of the list. Yep, it’s California alright.

  8. David Barron

    First and formost, why are these players at College? They are there to “go to college” TO FURTHER THEIR ACADEMIC EDUCATION. They did not go to college to get involved in sports although this seems to be the trend today, to make professional college athletes. Why not let high schools start paying their students to play sports too? Where do you draw the line? It was drawn between academic institution and professional ball or other sport venues and worked quite well over the past. Why all of a sudden do we need to start paying students to “play” athletic games? California has stopped being a leader many decades ago as their leadership in ideas and common since has failed miserably. Perhaps this can be changed if other schools outside California just plane refuse to play against the “professionals playing for California Schools” The difference between amateur and professional does seem to be one gets paid and the other doesn’t it? Tax payers of California will relish paying for professional athletes at their higher education institutions in an already over taxed state.

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