Last week, the state of California passed a law allowing collegiate student-athletes to accept endorsements and work with agents, something they have never been allowed to do before. NCAA guidelines specifically stipulate that players are not allowed to be paid in exchange for using their name and image for advertising purposes or hire agents for the purpose of promoting their athletic careers (The New York Times, “Paying College Athletes: Answers to Key Questions on New Law,” 09.30.2019). Thus, this new California law directly conflicts with NCAA
With the current NCAA rules, college athletes do not receive any financial support other than scholarships. At first glance, this system makes sense. Were athletes to receive salaries, or some other form of incentives for attending certain schools, the schools more capable of giving these gifts would have a leg up in the recruiting process. This would result in consistently better teams for richer schools. Collegiate athletics is also just that: collegiate. The whole idea of college sports is to give amateur players the opportunity to continue playing and, in rarer circumstances, prove their skills to professional teams. To pay college players would be, by definition, to turn them into professional players, thus negating the purpose of college athletics.
However, it cannot be ignored that players in
Many college teams are already only one step removed from being professional. Other than baseball, where players play in the minor leagues before making their professional debuts and are not required to attend college, many football and basketball players go to school for the sole purpose of then going pro. The NBA mandates players
While the numbers regarding top-tier Division I schools are quite clear, the debate over paying athletes is not simple. Firstly, quantifying how much a player is worth is very difficult. Obviously players in smaller, less-prestigious athletic programs would not earn the same money as their top-tier counterparts, but where should the line be drawn? I do not think anyone would argue that Vassar athletes should be paid (and I speak as one myself), but where does the line start?
These questions and so many more need to be hashed out before college players can be properly rewarded for their efforts on the field. This controversial California law now forces NCAA officials to act, and it will only push the issue forward toward the compensation athletes deserve.