California is a testing ground for policies that the rest of the country maybe isn't quite ready for, and that may soon include the arena of collegiate sports.
On Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom gave the green light to college athletes in his state to profit off of their name, image or likeness. It's a new law called the Fair Pay to Play Act, and it's a major step toward balancing the power — and revenue — between athletes, the schools they play for and the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
The legislation, which doesn't take effect until 2023, also permits athletes to hire agents, another practice the NCAA does not allow. The association is likely to take it to court, because it obviously wants nothing to do with any move toward paying the athletes.
Why? First and foremost, it's because the NCAA has become a multi-billion dollar juggernaut and the bigwigs obviously don't want the athletes coming for their money. Profiting off of side deals — endorsements from private companies and such — is just the first step in the process for the athletes.
You'll likely see other states introduce similar legislation. Lawmakers in New York, South Carolina and Illinois have already stated they will, while Minnesota governor Tim Walz said this week that paying players is a conversation worth having, even if he's not committed to anything beyond that.
It's going to be really interesting to see how the NCAA responds to California's move. Will they strip the state's schools of scholarships? Will they bar them from postseason play? California is home to some of the country's most prestigious colleges -- UCLA, Stanford, USC, etc.
Are you going to marginalize and punish those schools to make a point? I doubt it.
On moral grounds I'm not all that comfortable with introducing more money into college athletics. It's supposed to be pure and the athletes are supposed to play for the love of the game.
I'm also somewhat of a pragmatist. Money has corrupted college sports for a long time; you might as well bring it out in the light, so to speak, and let the athletes earn it honestly.
The NCAA and its member schools are making truckloads of money off of the free services of the athletes. It's time they are allowed to share in the wealth.
Mike Hautamaki can be reached at email@example.com.