The NCAA Meets In Anaheim This Week. Shot Clock Starts On College Athlete Paychecks
California's new "Fair Pay To Play" law that will allow college athletes to make money from endorsements and other deals won't be in place for another three years, and that's just about how long it's going to take state and national officials to work out the details that so far have athletic directors scratching their heads.
"I think this upcoming year 2020 is a big year," said Andy Fee, the athletic director at California State University, Long Beach.
His campus is a powerhouse in volleyball, baseball, and other sports. The most common question from his athletes, he said, is when they'll be able to earn money without violating NCAA rules.
For seniors and juniors, the answer is probably never. Most will have graduated by the time the law takes effect in 2023. It will be mainly current sophomores and freshmen, and athletes who are currently in high school, who will be able to legally hire agents, sign endorsement deals, license their images, offer lessons for a fee, and otherwise make money just as any other college student can.
The NCAA, the rule-making body for college sports, planned its annual convention for January 22-25 in Anaheim long before Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the "Fair Pay To Play" law on the set of LeBron James's HBO show "The Shop" in September. And that's expected to put Southern California in the national spotlight in the discussion about paying college athletes.
"These will be meetings where you're going to have almost every athletic director in the country between Division I to Division III," Fee said, "so I think there's going to be some interesting conversations here in about three weeks."
THE CALIFORNIA LAW AFFECTS THE REST OF THE NATION
The ripple effect of California's law made headlines as soon as Newsom signed it. Current NCAA rules prohibit pay for student athletes -- and the NCAA said allowing athletes to earn money would give California an unfair recruiting advantage.
The NCAA also initially objected to California's proposal as unconstitutional. After Newsom signed it into law, the NCAA did an about face and said it would allow regional conferences to adopt their own versions of "Fair Pay To Play."
Whether those regional proposals will be identical to the California law is still up in the air. That's what makes the Anaheim convention so critical.
"I think that we're on the clock," said Dennis Farrell, commissioner of the Irvine-based Big West Conference, which oversees sports at 11 universities. All of them are in California, except for the University of Hawaii.
"We need to do something within the next year and it needs to be done either through the association or through the federal government so that there is some sort of a national policy that's in place," he said.
That national policy, Farrell said, should include protection of college athletes from predatory agents and keeping financial incentives from affecting how colleges and universities recruit student athletes.
He would like to see a proposal from NCAA leadership up for a vote at the 2021 convention.
WILL SOCIAL MEDIA FOLLOWERS EQUAL MONEY?
Out of more than 1,000 colleges affiliated with the NCAA, only the top 65, Farrell said, account for the bulk of the television rights and ticket sales that feed the multibillion-dollar college sports industry.
California's law won't let college athletes directly cash in on those pots of money, but it will let them tap into another multi-billion dollar industry: social media.
"I think that's probably where a lot of student athletes could monetize their name image and likeness," Fee said. "I mean, you've got a lot of student athletes who have a lot of followers on Instagram and Twitter" who could promote products on their feeds.
The NCAA convention agenda does not list any meeting or program directly addressing the California law or future action other than a Thursday afternoon session titled, "Two Things Every University President and General Counsel Need To Know About Name, Image and Likeness in College Sports."
Those planning to attend the convention say the deeper discussions about athlete endorsements will take place in the various national and regional leadership sessions scheduled throughout the convention.
"I'm optimistic, I think we will get to a place that student athletes feel a value that they can monetize their name, image and likeness," Fee said. "I think at the same time we as administrators and NCAA can continue what the NCAA is all about... student athletes getting college degrees."