Like other coaches at Big Ten basketball media day, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo said he wasn’t entirely sure of the ramifications of the California Fair Pay to Play Act, signed into law this week, that will allow college athletes to capitalize on their names, images and likenesses.
But he did know who he wants to butt out of it.
“The only thing that I would say on it, I sure as hell don’t think it’s a politician’s job to get involved in this,” Izzo said Wednesday in Rosemont. “I’m baffled by that a little bit.”
He’ll likely hear from more and more politicians on this matter in the weeks ahead. Already, Illinois Rep. Chris Welch introduced a similar bill Monday that would prohibit schools from “upholding any rule, requirement, standard or limitation” that keeps a student-athlete from making money from the use of his or her name, image or likeness. Legislators in Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Florida have proposed similar bills this week.
The California law takes effect in 2023 but could face legal challenges.
The NCAA, its member conferences and college administrators shouldn’t be surprised. There has been so much feet-dragging on this contentious issue, they could be called for traveling.
Of course politicians were bound to get involved in a hot-button issue about equity when the NCAA has mostly buried its head in the sand. Support for players being allowed to earn additional compensation for their play has been growing.
In a 2017 Seton Hall Sports Poll, 60% of people surveyed said a scholarship is sufficient compensation for college athletes. In 2013, that number was 71%.
“It would impact college players’ lives tremendously,” Illinois sophomore guard Ayo Dosunmu said Wednesday. “Of course it would. I saw LeBron (James) talking about (how) him and his mom didn’t have anything. If he went to college, the university would have made so much money off him, and him and his mom wouldn’t have made anything.
“They should be able to make money off their likeness, but they have to come to an agreement. It’s a matter of time before they pass the law and it becomes normal.”
Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany, who is stepping down in January, hasn’t budged from his traditionalist stance.
“I would prefer that they have the choice to move that into the professional ranks,” Delany said, “because I really don’t see much difference between name, image and likeness payments by a corporate sponsor or pay for play. It’s a belief system I have.”
But many Big Ten coaches seem to see the change as inevitable and realize embracing players’ rights would make them more popular in the recruiting game.
“In today’s day and age, if you’re not evolving, if you’re not forward-thinking, you’re standing in cement,” Indiana’s Archie Miller said. “The days of what was once always the way to do things and good, in 2020 maybe isn’t the way to do it.”
Some coaches worry about how players receiving different levels of compensation might affect the team dynamic.
“I don’t know what it’ll be like to be on a team if some guy is (getting) this and some guy is getting nothing,” Izzo said. “I don’t know what that does to the chemistry.”
It doesn’t seem to be a concern in the NBA. Or among Olympic teammates receiving various endorsement deals. And are we really going to pretend – especially in the wake of the FBI investigation into corruption and bribery in college athletics – that certain players aren’t already getting under-the-table benefits their teammates aren’t receiving?
Illinois coach Brad Underwood said there was an initial “overreaction” when the NCAA’s Power Five conferences approved a rule in 2015 guaranteeing the full cost of attendance for scholarship athletes. Athletes receive yearly stipends, generally between $2,000 and $4,000, intended to cover cost-of-living expenses.
Other rules have passed in recent years. Unlimited meals and snacks are now available for scholarship athletes. Before 2012, scholarships were renewed on an annual basis and could be pulled based on injury or performance. Now programs can offer multiyear scholarships.
“I just don’t think you can stay status quo,” Underwood said. “Status quo gets you left behind. Everyone was worried and overreacted to cost of attendance. That’s been a really positive thing. I remember the day when you couldn’t feed your team. You couldn’t give them a bagel with cream cheese on it. Now we’re spending millions of dollars and have nutritionists and dietitians.
“It’s only positive. If (name, image and likeness) is the next thing, time will tell. There’s a lot of work to be done between now and then. I haven’t thought that deeply, but if it helps a student-athlete, I’m for it.”
The NCAA should be for it too.
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