NCAA and California lawmakers in showdown over college athletes - What's Your Point?

This week’s panel; Wayne Dolcefino, media consultant;  Bob Price, Associate Editor of Breitbart Texas; Carmen Roe, Houston attorney; Antonio Diaz-, writer, educator and radio host; Jacquie Baly, UH Downtown Political Science Professor; Chris Tritico, FOX 26 legal and political analyst; alk about the recent change in California allowing college athletes to earn money through endorsements.

ASSOCIATED PRESS - September 12, 2019  Chalk one up for the "student athletes."

California is on the verge of striking a mortal blow to the system that's been sponging free labor off its "student athletes" for decades. The state is en route to approving a law that gives players a chance to make some money for playing games that entertain the masses and seem to make everyone rich except the players themselves.

It's been a long time coming, and the only real question is to what extent NCAA leaders will go to fight this.

By the looks of things, they're ready to rumble.

In the wake of the state Assembly passing the Fair Pay to Play Act, NCAA leaders sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday, urging him not to sign the bill.

"It would erase the critical distinction between college and professional athletics and, because it gives those schools an unfair recruiting advantage, would result in them eventually being unable to compete in NCAA competitions," the letter said.

The second part of this argument makes sense. If a player who attends college in California can get a sponsorship deal while those in other states can't, it builds in an advantage that not even the shadiest college recruiter and his shoe-company buddies can match.

But the first part - the part about the "critical distinction between college and professional athletics" - is disingenuous to the core, a notion as antiquated as the peach basket and leather helmet, and the reason this whole thing is bound to change.

The notion that these near-full-time athletes in these billion-dollar sports are amateurs, or that they shouldn't get paid, runs counter to the tenets of basic fairness and feels downright un-American. Hard to believe the Olympics - hardly run by the most forward-thinking or athlete-centric organizations - were decades ahead of the NCAA when it came to unwinding the charade of amateurism in its sports.

"It's a fundamental truth of life that our innate ability is what creates our livelihood," said Jeremy Bloom, the former skier/football player who, years ago, got caught in the NCAA crosshairs for having the temerity to want to play both sports and to have sponsors in one (skiing) so he could fund his Olympic dreams. "These are the abilities of these people, and there's no reason they shouldn't have the ability to monetize that, irrespective of whether their education is getting paid for or not."

In most cases, it is being paid for. But that, along with the couple of grand extra that the biggest schools agreed to give to augment some of these scholarships while also relieving pressure for bigger reform, has always felt like the very least they could do.

The California bill is reasonable in that it doesn't ask colleges to pay any more to the athletes, but rather, gives players a chance to hire an agent, put themselves out on the market and see what they can make.

Only a very few would have a legitimate chance to get rich from this. Many more might make a little something - enough to buy a car, fill up the gas tank, go to dinner, etc. The vast majority of soccer and volleyball and field hockey players wouldn't notice any difference. Most fans wouldn't either.

The NCAA, in its letter, says it has the students' best interests in mind and that "NCAA member schools already are working on changing rules for all student-athletes to appropriately use their name, image and likeness in accordance with our values."

Lawmakers, however, moved faster than the NCAA - let that soak in for a minute - and the NCAA's swift, terse reaction gave them a clear picture about the agendas of the people whose cages they're rattling.

In addition to threatening to bar California schools from NCAA championships (Think of the possibilities: Winner of March Madness plays UCLA for the real national title.), the NCAA called the bill unconstitutional, a notion that immediately brings with it the specter of a court case.

That's how seriously the NCAA appears to take this threat. It's a sign of how far NCAA President Mark Emmert and his cronies are willing to go to protect a way of life that has lined all its schools' coffers along with the pocketbooks of all the administrators, TV networks, coaches and sponsors involved in college sports.

Everyone but the players.

If Newsom signs the bill, which would go into effect in 2023, the NCAA will have two choices: fight it in court, or sit down and get serious about changing the antiquated structures that have ruled college sports at the expense of athletes for decades. Or do both on parallel tracks.

However it goes, it feels like change is on the way.

"It's inevitable, it's coming," Bloom said. "A lot of people have been slowly chipping away, chipping away, and then, suddenly, it's going to be an iceberg coming off. It could certainly make a lot of lives better for a lot of people in a lot of sports."

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - September 11, 2019    Athletes at California colleges could hire agents and sign endorsement deals under a bill the state Legislature sent to the governor Wednesday, setting up a potential confrontation with the NCAA that could jeopardize the athletic futures of powerhouse programs like USC, UCLA and Stanford.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has not said whether he will sign the bill. But the NCAA Board Of Governors is already urging him not to, warning that if he does California colleges and universities would eventually be banned from NCAA competitions because of their "unfair recruiting advantage."

"It would erase the critical distinction between college and professional athletics," the Board of Governors said in a letter to Newsom. "These outcomes are untenable and would negatively impact more than 24,000 California student-athletes across three divisions."

The state Assembly and Senate sent the bill to the governor without a dissenting vote in what Republican Assemblyman Kevin Kiley said was "a loud and clear message to the NCAA." Several Republican senators noted they had planned to vote against the bill but changed their minds after listening to the debate and, in some cases, lobbying from their children.

"This is one of those situations where I think we need to blaze the trail," said Republican Sen. Jeff Stone, who said his daughter played water polo in college.

Newsom has 30 days to either sign the bill, veto it or let it become law without his signature.

Donald Remy, the NCAA's chief operating officer and chief legal officer, said their letter to Newsom "is not intended to be a threat at all" but is "a reflection about the way California is going about this."

The NCAA believes the bill is unconstitutional because it violates the federal Commerce Clause , and would consider challenging the bill in court if it becomes law. But Democratic Sen. Nancy Skinner, who authored the bill, called that "a hollow threat."

"This is meant to scare us," she said.

The bill would allow student-athletes to hire agents and be paid for the use of their names, images or likenesses. It would stop California universities and the NCAA from banning athletes that take the money. But it would forbid athletes from signing endorsement deals that conflict with their school's existing contracts. If it becomes law, it would take effect Jan. 1, 2023.

The Senate voted 39-0 Wednesday to pass the bill, which has the endorsement of NBA superstar LeBron James, who skipped college and went directly to the NBA before the league changed its rules to require players to be at least one year removed from high school before entering the draft. But the bill could impact James' 14-year-old son, who is a closely watched basketball prospect in Los Angeles.

The NCAA is the top governing body for college sports. Membership is voluntary. Athletes can get valuable scholarships, but the NCAA has long banned paying athletes to preserve the academic missions of colleges and universities.

But college sports have since morphed into a multibillion-dollar industry, igniting a debate over the fairness of not paying the industry's most visible labor force.

Earlier this year, NCAA President Mark Emmert told lawmakers that passing the bill would be premature, noting the NCAA has a committee led by Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith and Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman that is exploring the issue. Their report is due in October.

The NCAA committee has already said it won't endorse a plan to pay athletes as if they were employees, but the organization could ease limits on endorsement deals for athletes. The NCAA already lets athletes accept money in some instances. Tennis players can accept up to $10,000 in prize money, and Olympians can accept winnings from their competitions.

Democratic Sen. Holly Mitchell went to high school with Reggie Miller, who played basketball at UCLA before embarking on an 18-year career in the NBA. Mitchell said she believes Miller's sister, Cheryl Miller, was the better basketball player but her professional options were limited after her collegiate career at USC that included two national championships.

"This is also a gender parity issue for women athletes at the collegiate level to benefit financially when they don't have the same opportunities as their male counterparts," Mitchell said.

In and around California, schools and conferences believe this legislation might not be the best solution.

The Pac-12, which includes USC, UCLA, Stanford and Cal, issued a statement reiterating its previous stance - asking the California Legislature to delay the debate until the NCAA announces formal proposals.

"The question is what's the best way to continue to support our student-athletes. We think having more information and informed views will be helpful," the statement said.

J.D. Wicker, the athletic director at San Diego State, a Mountain West Conference member, agreed, saying "California weighing in on this complicates that."

"I think the frustration for me is that they probably don't truly understand the NCAA and how we work as a governing body," Wicker said. "Again, it's schools across 50 states and it's all of us working together, whereas the state of California will only harm California schools."