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No, California, College Athletes Do Not Need Agents

No, California, College Athletes Do Not Need Agents

Any time I find myself struggling with an issue, when I’m not sure what to think or I’m searching for moral clarity, I ask myself WWTTD. 

What would Tim Tebow do? And then I look to the guru of Gatorland for guidance.

Calm down, I’m kidding. I’m a Tebow fan but I’m not a complete nut. 

Yet when the guy’s right, he’s right.

And Tebow is right about the “Fair Pay to Play” Act that California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed last week. The law will make it legal in 2023 for California college athletes to hire agents, sign endorsement contracts and rake in money.

Tebow’s against it and so am I. College athletes should get more cash. But not this way.

Oh and let’s not pretend this is about anything other than men’s sports. Even then, just a handful of college football and basketball superstars at each school out of the roughly 500,000 collegiate athletes nationwide.

This isn’t going to benefit the average player. Or female athletes.

In an interview this week the Heisman winner said this:

"When I was at the University of Florida I think my jersey was one of my top-selling jerseys around the world. It was like Kobe, Lebron, and I was right behind them, but I didn't make a dollar from it. Nor did I want to. I knew going into college, what it was all about. I knew going to Florida, my dream school, where I wanted to go, the passion for it. And if I could support my team, support my college, support my university, that's what it's all about. But now we're changing it from us and we and my university…to it's not about us, it's not about we, it's just about me.

"…We're changing what's special about college football. We're turning it into the NFL. Who has the most money? That's where you go. That's why more people are more passionate about college sports than they are the NFL. That's why the stadiums are bigger in college than they are in the NFL. It's about your team, about your university…you're taking that away so young kids can earn a dollar, and that's just not where I feel like college football needs to go."

OK, the guy’s a little verbose. But he’s right.

Those of us who love college football know that what makes the sport so much more fun to watch than the NFL - where the players have better skills - is that these are kids. Student athletes. They make brilliant plays one minute, boneheaded ones the next. 

Beyond that, our connections to certain colleges give us a loyalty and affection for our school’s teams. We like to think the players share that fondness. Many do. In fact, the sidelines of big college games are often peppered with NFL players, past and present cheering on their alma mater.

If the bill stands, the NCAA in 2023 will be forced to suspend all California schools from competition. Virtually impossible.

Failing that, every state will have to enact similar measures. Those that don’t will see almost all of their homegrown four- and five-star players head to California.

Think about it, unless Virginia follows California’s lead there will likely never be another Quin Blanding at UVA or Michael Vick at Tech. The temptation for highly rated high school players to commit to schools in states that allow athletes to make money will be overpowering.

Speaking of money, could we dispel the myth once and for all that college players are unpaid? Scholarship athletes receive a free ride to school. That’s a benefit worth in many cases, well over $100,000.

That isn’t enough. After all, the egghead who spends his four years in the library, not risking concussions, broken limbs, torn ACLs and who never has to practice in the sweltering heat of summer, may also be tuition free because of academics. His only job is to get good grades.

I’d argue that the guy hitting the weight room at 5 a.m. - not to mention, helping the school make millions off his talent - should be getting extra loot for essentially working a strenuous, full-time job while going to school.

Beyond that, many student athletes are poor. As hard as they work, they ought to be getting enough cash for entertainment and to have a car, like many of their classmates who are sauntering through college on their parents’ credit cards.

A few of years ago, the NCAA approved cost-of-attendance stipends, which allow colleges to give players money to compensate them for the cost of attending school beyond tuition. Schools are also allowed to give scholarship athletes unlimited meals.

Those changes were aimed at curbing recruiting violations which are rife in the Power Five conferences.

The NCAA - a capricious organization that selectively enforces its own rules - must make even more drastic changes. The California law should goose that governing body to find ways to get substantial sums of money to college athletes without nuking the concept of amateurism.

If the NCAA does’t act, look for your favorite college quarterback to be on TV in 2023 hawking everything from payday loans to hemorrhoid cream. From California.

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