The NCAA is considering to allow college athletes to earn income from endorsement deals. The move comes one month after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed California’s Fair Pay to Play Act into law.
Now, Delegate Shawn Fluharty (D-Ohio) is planning to introduce a similar measure in the West Virginia Legislature next session.
Fluharty believes college recruiting efforts could suffer if West Virginia does not have a law similar to that in California.
Fluharty, one of the state’s most vocal proponents of legalizing online sports betting and casino gambling in West Virginia, has focused his attention on fixing what he considers a broken system. He spoke of his plans on a recent episode of The Danny Jones Show at 580 Live.
“We have a broken system now. Finally, people are standing up to the NCAA. The NCAA has a great formula, right? You make over $1 billion annually and don’t have to pay any of the employees. That’s fantastic.”
Fluharty hopes for bipartisan support
With California paving the way and the NCAA set to lessen its restrictions, Fluharty hopes the bill will easily pass through the legislature.
After all, Fluharty claims it’s a Republican issue.
“It’s a free-market principled idea. One, a laborer is worthy of his wages. And two, in a free market, if you’re the most popular guy and everybody is wearing your jersey, you should get something in return for it.”
The biggest issue facing the passage of this bill is a misunderstanding of what it will allow.
The bill would allow a student-athlete to earn money from their likeness being used to generate income. That income could through advertising, jersey sales or other endorsements.
The bill won’t allow colleges to pay an athlete a salary or promise a signing bonus beyond its scholarship package.
“What this legislation would say,” Fluharty said, “Is (that) you’re not allowed to make money off of other people who are putting in all the work and not getting paid for it.”
WVU football player offers a contrarian view
Betting on WVU football has helped the Mountain State set record after record for WV sportsbooks. WVU itself makes bank selling WVU football gear. If WVU football is generating all this income for others, shouldn’t the athletes who fuel the sales be in a position to at least afford to pay their rent?
Coach Neal Brown has not gone on the record with his thoughts on the California law. He recently told the WV Metro News, “Bottom line, I don’t really have an opinion on it. My deal is: Tell me the rules and I’ll abide by them.”
One of his players, however, has gone on record in-depth.
WVU football defensive lineman Reese Donahue thinks a similar bill in West Virginia could cause a rift in the locker room and ultimately change the game.
He mentioned the example of a starting quarterback selling thousands of jerseys while the entire defensive line might only sell a few hundred.
“Now you’ve created separation within the program. And now it becomes an individual sport, not a team sport … if you start individualizing the sport, you lose that team aspect.”
Even though Donahue opposes those specific rule changes, he does believe that changes are necessary. He is not against players earning more money; he just opposes to individual endorsement deals.
For instance, he suggests totaling all jersey sales and splitting among the team. Or allowing players to market themselves for promotional events, such as autograph signings.
Additionally, he proposes an increase in the monthly stipend, which would lighten the financial burden for many student-athletes.
“I do think we should get paid more than we do because we get about $1,000 a month. A little more or a little less, depending on who you are. By the time you pay for food and rent, it’s almost gone. I do think our stipend money, or our scholarship money, should be increased a little bit to make it easier on us.”
NCAA grudgingly changing its tune
The initial reaction from the NCAA after the passage of the California law was to label the law unconstitutional.
In a statement, it basically warns states to stay in their lane.
“The NCAA agrees changes are needed to continue to support student-athletes, but improvement needs to happen on a national level through the NCAA’s rule-making process.”
Of course, it has had all the time in the world and failed to make any progress toward any significant rule changes.
One month after the California law was signed, and after several other states signaled similar changes, the NCAA is finally ready to make its move.
Michael Drake, chair of the NCAA board and president of Ohio State University, discussed the board’s unanimous vote to allow students to earn income from the use of their name, image, and likeness “in a manner consistent with the collegiate model.”
“We must embrace change to provide the best possible experience for college athletes. Additional flexibility in this area can and must continue to support college sports as a part of higher education.
“This modernization for the future is a natural extension of the numerous steps NCAA members have taken in recent years to improve support for student-athletes, including (the) full cost of attendance and guaranteed scholarships.”
NCAA President Mark Emmert discussed the NCAA’s proposed rules changes.
“As a national governing body, the NCAA is uniquely positioned to modify its rules to ensure fairness and a level playing field for student-athletes,” said Emmert. “The board’s action today creates a path to enhance opportunities for student-athletes while ensuring they compete against students and not professionals.”
It is past the time to allow student-athletes to benefit from the profits they help generate. It doesn’t matter that the NCAA’s hand was forced. Though, it does matter that change is on the horizon and West Virginia can help it gain momentum.