How State Bill 206 Could Affect SUU Athletics

State Bill 206 effect

California Gov. Gavin Newsom parlayed the signing of a groundbreaking law into an appearance on LeBron James’ HBO show The Shop. If you haven’t seen the video, then let me rereo the honor of presenting you to the gel-riddled haircut that may have just changed college athletics forever.

Newsom’s choice to sign the bill on The Shop was measured and symbolic. LeBron’s mere presence in the room speaks to a small transition of power from the hands of the NCAA to the athletes. That’s been a career long pursuit for him, and this is a huge step forward in terms of player empowerment.

The gist of the bill is that starting in 2023 the NCAA cannot ban athletes who profit of their name, image or likeness in the state of California. Other states have pushed against the NCAA’s hand, but this bill sets the state on a collision course with the NCAA.

If other states take up arms in the fight, the NCAA will be forced to either concede and allow athletes to make money, or disband. If other states don’t join in, then universities in California will have an advantage over the rest of the country. Student-athletes would be able to hire agents and make money there, but nowhere else.

That would be bad for the NCAA, who prides itself on seeming fair. Nothing they do is actually fair. It’s all just lip service to keep the student-athletes in the money printing machine known as amateurism. 

All of the broadcasting rights and revenue from March Madness tickets goes straight into their greasy pockets and all the players get is free tuition and a few meals a week on the house.

A study conducted by Drexel University revealed that 86% of student-athletes live below the federal poverty line, even with room and board considerations factored in. The NCAA focuses on the education athletes receive, but free English 1010 courses don’t feed the families student-athletes have to leave behind when they go to school.

As ESPN’s Bomani Jones has noted, the reason student-athletes bulk up so much in college is because, for many, it’s the first time they’re eating three meals a day in their lives. The NCAA just shrugs off the poverty many student-athletes and their families experience in the name of amateurism. Meanwhile they shill out mega contracts to coaches like it’s nothing.

Even Tim Tebow, who made an ass of himself on First Take earlier this month, wrote in his autobiography (gloriously titled Through My Eyes) back in 2011, “The NCAA’s stance on paying players – or not paying them – seems unfair to me, with the preposterous amounts of money being made by the schools, television, coaches, and the like.  And the players?”

Tebow (or maybe his ghost writer) brings up a good point. Coaches and universities rake in millions of dollars on the backs and jersey sales of student-athletes and they never see a dollar of that money. That isn’t true across the country though. Not every athletic department pulls in insane amounts of revenue.

Here at Southern Utah University our athletes wear the same uniforms every year. They play in front of half-empty stadiums and aren’t asked to sign autographs. At SUU a student-athlete gets a chance to compete, and that’s enough, but do they deserve more?

Do the countless hours they spend practicing, lifting weights, recovering, watching film and travelling deserve something more than free Chick-fil-A? Student-athletes are putting their bodies on the line every time they play but get no financial compensation for their efforts.

If players can begin to capitalize on their likeness, then that could really only help a small school like SUU. Are there more advertising opportunities in the Pac-12? Of course. Will that matter if you never see the field?

It’s not like this bill is suggesting each university pay players a salary. All it offers is the chance for players to make money off their likeness, something that literally every other student who isn’t involved in athletics has the right to do.

LeBron echoed support for the bill in a statement to the Los Angeles Times, “Athletes at every level deserve to be empowered and to be fairly compensated for their work, especially in a system where so many are profiting off of their talents. Part of the reason I went to the NBA was to get my mom out of the situation she was in. I couldn’t have done that in college with the current rules in place.”

On a small scale, this bill does nothing but good for players in need of money. If it’s accepted throughout the country (and if it isn’t, Utah will likely be one of the last states to come around on the idea), then SUU really won’t be affected much. 

Players that come here don’t do it for fame or status. They come to SUU for a chance to prove themselves, and if they could earn some money because they have proved themselves, then more power to them.

This is especially true in college towns that center around athletics like Cedar City does. If a local business wants to capitalize a star basketball player’s status, then who stands to lose? I guess the NCAA, but why should they control a player’s life to that extent?

State Bill 206 won’t put SUU at a significant disadvantage because the kind of players the university recruits will still want the chance to play Division-I athletics here.

The scary part of this is how the NCAA will respond. Could they just ban all the universities who allow their players to use their likeness from competing in postseason play? The NCAA released a statement saying that if individual states pass similar laws, it will be hard to maintain a level playing field.

What a sweet sentiment, but the playing field is not level now and never will be. More boosters means better facilities, better coaches and more recognition on TV. If they really want things to be fair, then they should build uniform high level facilities for every university in the nation. 

How about they force every university to pay their coaches the same salaries. Why should some universities get the best coaches just because they can afford to pay them more? That’s a stupid idea, right? Well so is pretending that college athletics is fair. Each university has unique characteristics that make them appealing to recruits, and expensive facilities are a fantastic selling point.

To me, the NCAA just wants to continue to capitalize on the money maker that is collegiate athletics, and for the first time the U.S. government is calling them out on it. Let the players make money off their likeness instead of trying to suppress their ability to be normal humans. 

Story by: Connor Sanders
Photo courtesy of SUU Athletics