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What is California’s Fair Pay to Play Act and what does it potentially mean for the Group of Five

The new California law that allows college athletes to get paid might be beneficial to the G5. It also might enhance the status quo.

California Governor Gavin Newsom And Attorney General Becerra Announce Legal Action On Immigration Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Earlier this week in front of former California college athletes, LeBron James, and a couple of cameras, Governor of California Gavin Newsome enacted SB 206, a bill nationally known as the Fair Pay to Play Act.

Since Newsome put pen to paper, there has been a ton of opinions on the future of college sports. Over the past few years, we’ve had several contributors for Underdog Dynasty willing to add their two cents on the matter. Should college players be paid? Given the polarizing nature of the topic I’ve always refrained from publishing these sorts of articles with my reasoning being there will be an appropriate time when the site can really discuss what paying players means for our beloved underdog schools.

Well, folks, that time has come. Before we get into the nitty-gritty of what California’s new law is, and what the pros and cons may be, I would like to add some disclosure.

Out of the respect to the contributors of UDD, the views expressed in this article are not Underdog Dynasty’s, but my own. There are a few writers on staff who believe players shouldn’t be paid. That it’ll ruin college sports. Other writers on staff believe players should be paid and that it’s been long overdue that they receive a cut of the profits.

Regardless of where you stand, it’s time to acknowledge that the landscape of college sports will for sure change in the next five years or so as even in these tense times, both republicans and democrats are trying to take down the NCAA with various bills. In the past few days, multiple bills with the same premise as California’s SB 206 law have surfaced.

Time to start figuring out what all of this means for the G5.

What is the SB 206 “Fair to Play Act”

  • The law pertains to California only.
  • The law allows student-athletes (men & women) to obtain legal representation and to engage in contracts that profit from their name, likenesses and media rights (i.e. sponsorship, EA Sports video games like NCAA March Madness and NCAA Football, being allowed to eat a slice of pizza with a booster).
  • The law states that scholarships are not considered compensation.
  • The law bans colleges from disciplining athletes who receive money or representation from third parties.
  • The law was passed unanimously by the California General Assembly on September 8th and enacted September 30th.
  • The law will be officially recognized as such on January 1, 2023.

What the SB 206 “Fair to Play Act” is not

  • The law DOES NOT mean colleges and universities must now put student-athletes on payroll. Your favorite school/team is NOT PAYING players.
  • The law DOES NOT require other schools and universities outside of California to meet this same standard with their institutions (i.e. schools outside of California are not required to pay student-athletes from California who represent their respective institution ).
  • The law DOES NOT allow players to enter into arrangements that would violate the terms of any sponsorship or licensing deals that their school have struck with other entities.

Why is this law potentially good for G5 schools

I don’t really care to debate about whether student-athletes getting paid beyond the other perks they receive with a scholarship is good or not. Personally, I think it’s good. Obviously it will benefit the players, but I’m more concerned about where my school (FAU) stands. If this law or something like it is adapted by the NCAA, I think it could go a long way in creating parity in college sports. Specifically, football.

During last weekend’s games there was a string of tweets on my timeline that college football was boring. That it lacked parity due to the sport being so top heavy with Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State and the other usual suspects.

We all know about the bagmen that circulate on the black market of the college football world. Bringing these players to light and making it above board is not going to alter the recruiting world all too much. In 2010 the top 10 recruiting classes were Florida, Texas, USC, Alabama, Oklahoma, Auburn, Tennessee, Florida State, LSU and UCLA. In 2020, guess how many of those same schools a decade ago are currently about to sign a top 10 class? Seven!

The gap between the haves and have nots is already wide and is not getting smaller any time soon under the current system. Why not shake it up? The P5 schools are paying recruits and providing all kinds of “illegal” benefits. It’s time for the G5 schools to get thrown into the fray too. I want to see if this approach could possibly give G5 schools a shot at getting more talent and national coverage. As it currently stands, G5 schools are at a competitive disadvantage as they are constantly relied on to do more with less a stacked deck in comparison to the P5. That hasn’t exactly stopped G5 schools from beating P5 schools anyway, but if the talent gap can close even more between the two then I’m all for it.

Schools like Tulane, SMU, and Houston can really capitalize off of their market and use the large pockets of their boosters to potentially become a national player. I’m not going to pretend to know about the economic situation going on at schools in rural cities such as Louisiana Tech, Southern Miss or Marshall, but I guarantee that if a four-star QB from say Shreveport, finds it more lucrative to be a big fish in a small pond at a school like La Tech, he will go against the grain of being one of many highly-rated prospects at LSU and head to Ruston, Hattiesburg or Huntington where he can really capitalize off of being the next Terry Bradshaw, Brett Favre or Byron Leftwich.

SMU was a powerhouse in the 80s thanks to their boosters willing to pay for players. There’s no reason why the Mustangs can’t revert to being a power. Being in Dallas, SMU can entice recruits to be the face of college football in a big city with various endorsement deals from companies like Southwest Airlines on the larger end, or some popular Air Condition company on the lower end.

The clearest path for the NCAA is to work with the U.S. Congress to come up with some legislation that incorporates what SB 206 wants for student-athletes. NOT SCHOOLS PAYING FOR PLAYERS but for players to make money off of their likeness.

No matter where you stand on the issue change is coming. Time to get used to the idea of student-athletes getting paid. Whether G5 schools can benefit and use this new law to their benefit remains to be seen and I for one can’t wait.