New bill could ruin college sports

Michael Sicoli

People go to college to receive an education.

Or at least that’s what’s supposed to happen.

The Fair Pay to Play Act was passed through the California State Senate and State Assembly on Monday, Sept. 9. This bill allows college athletes to use their own name to receive endorsements and profit from the use of their name. Student athletes could hire agents to work out business deals straight out of high school. If Governor Gavin Newsom signs the bill, it will become law in California. Meanwhile, in New York, Senator Kevin Parker has proposed a bill that would take 15% of college athletic funding and give it to student athletes.

Sounds good right? Wrong.

I’m here to tell you how quickly this could blow up in everyone’s face.

College is meant for education. This is where students are turned from fidgety teenagers to responsible men and women. This is where you broaden your horizons, and learn about paths that you may have never even heard about. This is where you meet your friends, your new family. This is where your life really begins.

This bill would ruin all of this.


Imagine this. Junior year of high school, maybe even earlier depending on the sport, a kid hires an agent. That agent takes a massive cut from a kid that hypothetically would not be earning anything until years later when college begins. Thus begins the start of training, which is rigorous enough. Heap business endorsements and contracts on to an 18-year-old who received their driver’s license a year or two ago. Expectations from not only a coach but from a company that wants to endorse them. Throw in classes, homework, clubs and a social life. Oh, and that kid is probably living on his or her own in a whole new situation, which can be a difficult transition period for many.

That’s not too overwhelming is it?

Most importantly, many student athletes would prioritize their brand and their athletics over their education. For many, college is the end of the line for sports. Having an education and carving out a path to a career is essential. People would start to attend college for athletics over an education, and that just isn’t a sustainable or smart way to live life.

Of course, having some extra cash is definitely desirable for college athletes. Adding this level of complexity on a young, naive teenager is still probably worth it in their opinions. But what about everyone else?

During a press conference, Washington State coach Mike Leach, a well-known and respected figure in college football, worries that this new bill could ruin college sports as we know it. Specifically, he worries about the recruiting advantage that would be created for bigger schools and larger market areas.

“If you create a recruiting advantage beyond what already exists, I think it’s going to be very difficult,” Leach said. “I think there will be a huge imbalance and you’ll destroy college football, and I think that we have to be very careful of that … Then, of course, are we going to have a draft? Are we going to have trading? Are we going to have free agency? How far does all this stuff go?”

The last thing high profile colleges need is another advantage over smaller colleges. For example, high profile alumni from UCLA could offer a $200,000 endorsement deal if the prospect supports their company. It is simply more likely for colleges like Duke or Alabama to have connections that appeal to young athletes. They already have an advantage over smaller colleges purely due to name recognition. This bill could lead to corruption and imbalance that the college sports scene has never seen.

Tim Tebow also came out and criticized the bill on ESPN’s “First Take.”

“I feel like I have a little credibility and knowledge about this because when I was at the University of Florida, I think my jersey was one of the top-selling jerseys around the world,” Tebow said. “It was like Kobe, LeBron and then I was right behind them. I didn’t make a dollar from it, and nor did I want to because I knew going into college [was] what it was all about.”

While many blindly ripped Tebow’s argument apart, calling him out as a person that never really needed the money as a scholarship athlete that played in the NFL and now broadcasts for ESPN while also playing professional baseball.

Writing off his rant as nothing more than a white privileged speech is unfair, ignorant and downright foolish.

No matter if Tebow had a scholarship growing up, he could have made hundreds of thousands of dollars through endorsements. Despite this, he still criticizes the bill. His financial situation has nothing to do with his love for the game, and it’s clear that this college football legend worries that this bill would infringe on the passion that is crucial to have in sports.

Another major stakeholder in college sports is the organization that runs it all, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Naturally, they are also against this bill. Allowing athletes to endorse themselves is a slippery slope – eventually there would be a push for the NCAA to pay players directly. This would be a disaster as an education would become even more secondary compared to playing a sport. As a result, the NCAA has announced it will ban teams from states that incorporate this new rule. This would result in a worse viewing experience for consumers of college sports as star athletes won’t be covered by the NCAA, the biggest broadcaster of college sports.

Finally, it is important to understand that the majority of athletes receiving endorsements are players that look star-bound or upper league bound (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL etc…) These prospects are likely to receive a contract already, so why do they need to be paid in college, especially when the downsides are so massive? Most endorsement level athletes also receive an athletic scholarship, which is an incredible amount of money already allocated to a student.

Bottom line, the student will suffer by putting sports ahead of an education. The consumer will suffer by receiving inferior content. The game will suffer by creating an uneven playing field for recruitment.

And with this massive overstep, legislators may doom college sports as we know it.