CA Governor Signs Law Allowing College Athletes To Make Money

California Governor Gavin Newsom signed the Fair Pay to Play Act into law this week, allowing California college athletes to profit off of their own names, images and likenesses beginning in 2023.

The bill has been controversial as it moved through California’s legislative system, with the NCAA publicly declaring that the law would create an unequal playing field between California schools and colleges in the rest of the United States. The NCAA implied that the bill could lead to NCAA bans for California schools.

Further coverage:

CNN reports that the law will go into effect in 2023, but could also face some court challenges. The law would allow college athletes to sign endorsement and licensing deals while in college – something college athletes can currently do only if there is no reference made to their involvement in college sports.

The NCAA has shown very little wiggle room in the enforcement of those rules. In a swimming-centric case, two University of Iowa swimmers got in trouble in 2017 for launching their own T-shirt screening business, complete with a GoFundMe page. Because that GoFundMe page mentioned that the two (Chris Dawson and Tom Rathbun) had met while swimming at Iowa, the two ran up against potential NCAA ineligibility and were ultimately forced to remove all mention of swimming from the site, as well as removing both athlete’s names and photos. The two ultimately went by the pseudonyms ‘Rocky and Slide.’


The NCAA released the following statement today in response to Newsom’s signing of the bill:

As a membership organization, the NCAA agrees changes are needed to continue to support student-athletes, but improvement needs to happen on a national level through the NCAA’s rules-making process. Unfortunately, this new law already is creating confusion for current and future student-athletes, coaches, administrators and campuses, and not just in California.

We will consider next steps in California while our members move forward with ongoing efforts to make adjustments to NCAA name, image and likeness rules that are both realistic in modern society and tied to higher education.

As more states consider their own specific legislation related to this topic, it is clear that a patchwork of different laws from different states will make unattainable the goal of providing a fair and level playing field for 1,100 campuses and nearly half a million student-athletes nationwide.

The Pac-12 Conference, too, is against the new law. Their statement:

The Pac-12 is disappointed in the passage of SB 206 and believes it will have very significant negative consequences for our student-athletes and broader universities in California. This legislation will lead to the professionalization of college sports and many unintended consequences related to this professionalism, imposes a state law that conflicts with national rules, will blur the lines for how California universities recruit student-athletes and compete nationally, and will likely reduce resources and opportunities for student-athletes in Olympic sports and have a negative disparate impact on female student-athletes.

Our universities have led important student-athlete reform over the past years, but firmly believe all reforms must treat our student-athletes as students pursuing an education, and not as professional athletes. We will work with our universities to determine next steps and ensure continuing support for our student-athletes.

Meanwhile University of Wisconsin athletics director Barry Alvarez has also spoken out against the law, saying on the radio that he wouldn’t schedule games against teams from California due to the new rules. The Badger swim & dive teams don’t have any California opponents on their schedules this year, but did previously have a series with USC as recently as 2017-2018.

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1 year ago

“improvement needs to happen on a national level through the NCAA’s rules-making process”.

Oh of course, let’s just wait for the NCAA to allow student athletes to be compensated for their skills. That’ll happen naturally soon enough.

Brian M
Reply to  Swimmer
1 year ago

Be careful what you wish for. If anyone thinks that the way this is going (ultimately the goal is for student-athletes to be paid) is good for non-revenue NCAA sports, you unfortunately are sadly mistaken.

Steve Nolan
Reply to  Brian M
1 year ago

Please tell me why it’s so horrible for non-revenue sports.

It should be horrible for administrators and the dang UFO facilities schools keep building.

cynthia curran
Reply to  Steve Nolan
1 year ago

Probably, because their is not much money in it. A handful of people will get money. Newsom is kind of odd he makes it easier for students to make money, but makes it harder for Truck drivers or uber drivers to make money by forcing them to be an employee instead of an indpt contractor.

Steve Nolan
Reply to  cynthia curran
1 year ago

Uber drivers shouldn’t be classified as independent contractors. Tons of folks are improperly classified as independent contractors.

Reply to  Brian M
1 year ago

This would be a lot more applicable in the case of a law focusing on allowing universities to pay their athletes, which would lead to schools cutting non-revenue sports in order to be able to pay large salaries to their athletes, but that’s not what this is about.
This law is about the situation described above in the article, where becoming an NCAA athlete means signing away the rights to your name, image, and likeness. The money will not be coming directly from the school, this money would come from sponsorships, companies, and other payments coming from people outside of the collegiate system.

Reply to  swimmer
1 year ago

It’s an attempt to professionalize student/athletes. Sure swimmers will now be able to get paid, but the cash cow, football, will be negatively affected. The fan base are alumni and if these players are essentially turned into the minor league for the NFL, then fans will watch the major league instead (NFL). How many people watch minor league baseball compared to the major leagues???? Also, it will be rife with fraud as every crazy dude with some money will buy players for their favorite team right out of HS. Some of them will demand they start because they spent money on them. Just a crazy idea that will be the death of college sports like football and basketball.

Reply to  oldswimguy
1 year ago

In other words, nothing will change.

Reply to  Brian M
1 year ago

if somebody gets compensated for selling some autographs do not paint some end of time idiocy, read the bills and commentary to understand better

PK Doesn't Like His Long Name
Reply to  Brian M
1 year ago

Nothing bums me out harder than seeing an athlete with huge Olympic success have to choose between making money and swimming at the best yearly meet in the US. Our sport will be better off if those athletes can do both.

Reply to  PK Doesn't Like His Long Name
1 year ago

I agree… while I am adamantly against schools paying athletes, I am all for an athlete being allowed to make money on their own through sponsorships/competition bonuses

Reply to  PK Doesn't Like His Long Name
1 year ago

Why, it’s just a short course meet in a long course world? Elite swimmers now have an option to turn professional and maximize their swimming ability, perhaps creating multi-generational wealth. College swimming was fun, but now that there is money in the sport, it allows swimmers to reach their potential easier.

1 year ago

this step will provide necessary legal pressure, but will not succeed without NCAA agreement (obviously).

1 year ago

The NCAA is a joke. The fact that student athletes can’t make money off their name and likeness is silly. Amateurism has been dead for decades, just look at the Olympics.

The NCAA needs to realize that their current position is untenable and reorganize themselves to actual provide the only service they should, a proper regulatory service for universities to maintain rules, standards and regulations pertaining to competitions. If the NCAA hosts a championship in a sport, like they do in every sport outside of D1 FBS football, they should not be earning profits on them outside recuperating costs maybe. Having things like multi-billion dollar TV deals for the NCAA D1 men’s college basketball tournament while simultaneously enforcing a… Read more »

Bo Swims
Reply to  Landrew
1 year ago

Or accept prize money at meets like the Pro Swims or World Championships. Honestly the system is biased against females since they on average reach world class at a younger age.

2 Cents
Reply to  Bo Swims
1 year ago

What if you really wanted a top recruit, but you are capped on scholarships already… so you tell the recruit, hey we can get you the money to pay for school… we will host a meet where we will invite you and a bunch of 10 and unders and announce $10k prize money for each winner of the events… just swim and win and you will win $100k and that can pay for your first year or two, then we will do it again and you can clean up again. I know you said prize money for pro swims and world champs, but what is the difference? The only way to stop the scenario I mentioned would be to stipulate… Read more »

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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