20191005 Kraziness action - LKenneally

Ryan Woolridge prepares to inbound during Kraziness in the Kennel on October 5th, 2019.

Finally, someone is solving the issue regarding student-athlete pay. It’s about time. 

On Sept. 30, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation that will enable California collegiate athletes to use their own name, likeness and image for compensation. The law allows student-athletes the right to an agent or other professional representation. It will also overrule the NCAA’s amateurism laws, which state that student-athletes cannot participate in athletics if they are receiving compensation from sponsors or vendors.  

Basically, student-athletes in California can sign autographs and endorsement deals for profit and the schools and NCAA can’t do a thing about it. 

Finally, student-athletes have received a basic principle of freedom they should have been given long ago.  

It’s been a debate topic for decades now: should college athletes be paid? And it’s interesting the phrase implies that the institutions themselves would be compensating the players, as if they don’t already provide players with meals and housing as well as free merchandise and an education that’s paid for with a scholarship from the school. 

But what California is doing is something different; the colleges don’t hand out more money and the players get paid. Instead, the players are given the choice and freedom to profit as they may. It’s sort of the Goldilocks porridge everyone can enjoy. 

Some say this new law will most likely bring an end to amateurism in college sports, which can be argued doesn’t exist anyway. Many college coaches are paid similarly to professional head coaches, if not more. 

University of Kentucky men’s basketball head coach John Calipari earned $9 million last season while Portland Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts earned $5 million. And it doesn’t stop there. 

Many Division I facilities are equipped with state-of-the-art technology and equipment, and have fan bases that are more fanatic about their school’s team than they are about professional sports teams. All of this is made possible through the NCAA and the revenue it receives from events like March Madness and the College Football Playoff. 

The money goes back to the schools, yes, but massive contracts are still being negotiated and funds are used to create stadiums that resemble NFL stadiums, making this less of an amateur sport and more of a business. 

So, while student-athletes miss out on these opportunities, their academic peers can become professionals through start-up companies and internships, for example. There are opportunities for college students to pursue their major professionally while they earn a degree. 

Academic students are granted this opportunity while their athletic peers have to wait years for their turn, depending on the sport of course. There shouldn’t be a discrepancy on professionalism depending on if a student is an athlete or not. That creates inequality between student-athletes and academic students. 

And let’s not forget how this act benefits athletes who don’t have the opportunity to pursue their sports professionally. These student-athletes work just as hard yet find themselves pursuing a different career once they graduate. This is a possible factor as to why these certain sports might not be as popular. Since they can’t be pursued professionally, many young athletes stray away from those sports. 

But with this new act, athletes can become professionals while participating in the sport they’re passionate about. It can also be a financial safety net for athletes who endure career-ending injuries in college and miss out on earning a salary professionally. 

Female athletes who may not receive the same opportunity that male athletes have to earn compensation will also benefit greatly, since this is a law that empowers all collegiate athletes alike. 

“I do think we should be doing more for our student-athletes,” said Mike Roth, Gonzaga director of athletics. 

Roth expressed worries over how this law could create “bidding wars” among universities when it comes to recruiting athletes. 

“My fear is that it will destroy college athletics,” he said. 

 On the flip side, from a student-athlete’s perspective, the narrative is different. GU women’s soccer midfielder Sophia Braun said the law is “awesome,” citing all the hard work student-athletes put into their sport. 

The bottom line is that empowering student-athletes is something that should be encouraged because right now, the current system is flawed and unless the NCAA has a better idea, it will continue to be an organization that exposes young student-athletes for profit. 

Using one’s own name and likeness at their discretion is a right that everyone should be entitled to exercise. I encourage other states to discuss this topic and how they can change the course of collegiate sports for the better.

Cole Forsman is a contributor.

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