There was a sense of optimism when California passed its Fair Pay for Play law in October 2019. Other states quickly jumped into the debate regarding compensating college players, although no other state has followed California’s lead of actually passing a law. The federal government is also looking at the issue, with a recent Senate hearing in early February.
The wheels of change turn very slowly for the NCAA, which includes membership of 1,100 colleges and universities as well as a half-million athletes. The U.S. Congress has seen very little bipartisan support of any kind and even less than usual on an election year, but sports seems to be something that both sides of the aisle are interested in working together on.
State versus federal law
The inability of congress to get any laws in place will likely leave it to the states. This could mean a patchwork of rules and regulations. For example, while California has a new law on the books, it does not go into effect until 2023. Florida, on the other hand, does not have a law yet but could pass something that becomes law as soon as the summer of 2020. Dozens of other states are considering their plans as well. Different requirements could mean competitive advantages to some states.
NCAA not taking the lead
The NCAA has obviously been resistant to allowing athletes to get paid for sponsorships and even to be represented by an agent. The changes will likely be incrementally slow for the heavily bureaucratic organization, with the first changes to the rules not voted on until 2021.
These changes would likely be minimal with recommendations taken from closed-door discussion among NCAA members on rule changes to be presented in April 2020.
Confused? It could get worse
There also seems to be mixed signals in how involved the NCAA wants the federal government in legislating these rules. But impatient politicians at the state and federal level may take the matter out of the NCAA’s hands if it does not step up its pace. Failing to act could leave them with a bigger mess than they already have. One thing is for sure – this issue is not going away anytime soon.