The California Senate wants student-athletes to get paid.
Maybe it’s about time, maybe it’s an outrage. But either way, the problem remains: Money doesn’t grow on trees.
Senate Bill 206 would allow California student-athletes to profit from their own likenesses. In other words, they would be able to sign with agents or sponsors, making money off their personal brands. This challenges long-standing NCAA rules, which prohibit college athletes from doing so.
Lawmakers say they hope the bill will help student-athletes who, despite raking in cash for their universities, may never see a profit from playing. This is especially true for the majority of athletes who will not go on to professional sports careers and could benefit from sponsorships while still at the peak of their athletic achievements.
But the road to hell is paved with good intentions – and a couple million dollars the UC doesn’t have.
The benefits for student-athletes are clear, and arguably well-deserved. But in order to create a sustainable system, the state must work collaboratively with its universities in order to cushion the blow when the bills begin to pile up.
As of now, it’s done nothing of the sort.
The California Senate Appropriations Committee estimated NCAA penalties would cost the UC up to $1.8 million. Penalties aside, university revenue would also take a hit. The committee report found that the California State University system stands to lose $9 to $15 million. The UC predicts losses as well.
At first glance, this seems straightforward – the UC loses money, life goes on. That is, until you consider how the UC might respond.
The University will likely take strides to make up for its lost profits – a move California legislators must anticipate.
And while this bill is designed to help students, it’s concerningly unclear if state legislators will step in to protect them from potential backlash.
SB 206 provides no safeguards to ensure the UC is protected from losses in vulnerable areas. Less profitable sports or student-athlete scholarships might be on the line. Worse, it could affect students far outside the purview of athletics.
The state legislature would effectively be enacting a bill that creates fines and revenue loss, but provides no oversight regarding how the UC will approach these losses.
This is potentially dangerous – especially in the hands of an institution that has routinely raised tuition to overcome such shortcomings.
The state’s legislation is not, at its core, misguided. Student-athletes bring in huge amounts of money to the University, and they have long been exploited at its hands. But in crafting such a proposal, the state must be willing to provide oversight and support to the UC system. Otherwise, SB 206 runs the risk of creating undue burdens for the students it is trying to help.
Maybe it is time for student-athletes to make money off their contributions to the University’s bottom line.
But it’d be unfair for the state to wash its hands of the UC just yet.