The college game is changing outside the lines

FSW basketball player Keon Ellis in 2018

By Jonathan Pressley

FSW watched with the rest of the college sports world as California Governor Gavin Newsom signed the “Fair Pay to Play Act” on September 30. NCAA players will be able to earn money for their athletic skills, when the California law takes effect in 2023.

FSW’s Sports Information Director Roy Allen wasn’t surprised by the outcome.

“I think it’s something that’s just been a matter of time coming,” said Allen.

Colleges make hundreds of millions of dollars on television revenue alone, but student athletes have no way to profit themselves.

In California, and maybe soon Florida and other states, college athletes will be able to profit from the use of their name, image and likeness in commercial products. Athletes would be able to sign contracts with third parties such as video game publishers, apparel manufacturers, sporting goods companies and car dealerships

These students will only receive athletic scholarships from their school, but won’t lose the scholarship if they sign these contracts. Colleges and universities will still give scholarships, without paying athletes.

The governing body of college sports in California won’t be able to revoke players’ participation in NCAA sporting events on receiving payment for their athletic skills.

“When a person’s likeness is used like that in the real world, you have to pay for that. We can’t use copyrighted music” said Allen. “We’re taking someone else’s thing.” 

Florida state representative Kionne McGhee filed a bill in the Florida House of Representatives aimed at preventing the NCAA from blocking student-athletes from receiving compensation for the use of their likeness or name. McGhee’s House Bill 251 would take effect July 1, 2020 if passed.

President of the NCAA Mark Emmert warned that California schools might not be eligible for national championships or tournaments.

“States can pass it all they want to, but if the NCAA doesn’t get on board with it, it’s going to create a big problem,” stated Allen. “You’re going to have States telling student athletes that they can use their likeness to make money while the NCAA is still sitting over there saying that you can’t.”

This could affect recruiting.

“I do think it will impact recruiting,” said FSW’s women basketball coach Kristie Ward. “Anywhere you can get a step up, at a college, a university is gonna use it.”

The concern is colleges may end up like the NBA with bigger and smaller markets.

“The ones that do have powerhouse programs could really benefit from it and create a bigger gap between the powerhouses and the ones that fall right below,” said Ward. “Even kids now, even at this level, they want to know how much money am I going to get. At the end of the day, it’s all money and money talks.”

Some international players, unlike basketball recruits, came close to professional careers before choosing to enroll at FSW.

“In Germany, it’s a little bit more difficult because we do not have this system of playing for schools like college [or] high school because we only have clubs,” FSW volleyball player Anna Leweling expressed. “It’s easy to get into a professional team because in a club there are monitors, so if you play better & evolve your skills, it’s easier to get into these high professional teams.”

The problem is, if she played for a professional team, she couldn’t have come to America.

“If you played with a team that is considered a professional team, regardless of if you got paid or not, then you lose your amateurism,” explained FSW volleyball coach Thais Baziquetto- Allen.

Most players here at FSW just love the game. Women’s basketball all-conference sophomores Za’Nautica Downs and Nairimar Vargas Reyes paid no attention to the possibility of making money off the court, especially if it costs a tournament bid.

“You’re going into the school; you compete” said Vargas Reyes. Downs echoed the same thoughts: “I like competing [in] next level competition.”

Leweling agreed, “If earning money would make it not possible for me to play my sport, then it would destroy everything that I wanted.”  

As junior college transfers, FSW athletes may need to consider off-court earnings when choosing to accept Division 1A offers.

“The only way it would probably affect my decision is if it’s two totally different levels of schools,” said Keon Ellis a FSW men’s basketball player. “If I could make money off of my name, I’d go to a mid-major because I know I’ll probably have more of an effect.”

But money is not Ellis’ deciding factor. “Being on a regular scholarship, you’re well off. Like it’s not really necessary.”

FSW basketball player Jalen Finch isn’t looking at money-making opportunities at this point.

“I’m not too concerned about that it wouldn’t fit my choice,” Finch said. “It wouldn’t affect my decision too much; I just want to play ball.”

Not many players are willing to pay the cost of potentially missing the national tournaments. If the NCAA bars pay-for-play schools from national tournaments, that would affect Ellis’ options.

“Unless, I’m like a Zion [Williamson] type of player, where I know I’m going to the NBA like immediately after, I’d probably rather play in March madness,” said Ellis.

FSW men’s basketball coach Eric Murphy doesn’t think this new act will affect every most athletes: “I would say the top 20 recruits that are able to make a lot of money like Zion Williamson if he was in college, he could make a lot of money off of it.”

The NCAA Board of Governors will meet Oct. 28-29 in Atlanta, GA. The NCAA will have a proposal for name, image and likeness rights for college athletes.

“I think it needs to be a level playing field. I think it’s going to pass [but] it needs to pass across the country,” said Ward.

There are efforts, such as from Congressman Anthony Gonzalez, a former Ohio State football player, to propose federal legislation for paying college athletes.  

If passed, then the whole game will change.

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