Premium Partners

Colleges React to California ‘Fair Pay to Play’ Law

Andy Berg

California’s new Fair Pay to Play Act, which will go into effect in 2023 and will allow college athletes in that state to profit from their name, image and likeness, drew swift condemnation from many throughout the world of college athletics. 

University of Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez told a local radio outlet that the Badgers will refrain from scheduling California teams because of the law.

“I wouldn’t schedule anyone from California right now if they have different rules than we do. Then all the sudden they aren’t amateurs,” Alvarez told WTMJ.  “As a former coach and someone who had to go out and recruit athletes, you start thinking of ways that you can capitalize on this. 

“You have an excellent athlete someplace and you find him a sponsorship – whether it be a car dealership or some business or individuals. This person is your sponsor and this is how much you’re going to make … so you’re paying players,” he added.

Also out of the Big Ten, Nebraska head volleyball coach John Cook cast the new law as a slippery slope.

“I think there’s obviously some points that can be made for athletes being compensated for all the work they put in,” Frost told the Omaha World-Herald. “I hope it doesn’t destroy opportunities and competitive balance in other things that make our sports fun to watch.”

Cook also said that he thought such a law would also impact women’s sports, as volleyball players in Nebraska receive nearly the same acclaim as football players.

“I think nobody worries about women’s sports on this, it’s all about the men’s, but I think for them it’s gonna create chaos, and it’s gonna be really hard to police,” Cook said. “We’ll probably have to triple our compliance office, and I just think it’s gonna open a can of worms. But I’m not a lawyer, and these are amateurs, and I think they get a lot.”

On the West Coast, Gonazaga athletic director Mike Roth said he favors giving college athletes more than what they currently receive but that he thinks a law like the Fair Pay to Play Act is dangerous.

“I personally do feel student-athletes deserve more than what is presently allowed,” Roth told The Spokesman Review, “but once we go down this path of NIL, my fear is we’re professionalizing it and I really have a fear that professionalization will destroy college athletics. I don’t think people will view it the same way as they view college athletics now.”

Roth also said he worries about the potential for bidding wars for standout recruits in high-profile sports like football and basketball.

“My fear is schools that are willing to push the envelope will continue to do so and this way have a very clear and easy way to do it,” he said. “They work it out with a benefactor or a booster, ‘Hey we’re going to need you to pay this kid so much a year’ to put his picture in the window of their business and it becomes a bidding war at that point.”

Washington State head football coach Mike Leach echoed statements made by the NCAA, which claims the new law will create an unfair playing field.

“If you create a recruiting advantage beyond what already exists I think it’s going to be very difficult,” Leach said at a Sept. 16 news conference. “I think there will be a huge imbalance and you’ll destroy college football and I think you’ve got to be very careful of that. The other thing, if you can do stuff like that, surely if you don’t like the way the guy’s portraying something, you should be able to cut him on the spot pretty much, I would think.” 

Dave Heeke, vice president and director of athletics at the University of Arizona took a more open stance on the new law.

“We recognize that college athletics is an ever-changing landscape, and I look forward to the discussions and recommendations of the NCAA Working Group of athletic directors and administrators regarding future changes,” Heeke said in a statement issued to the local NBC affiliate. “I will continue to work with the NCAA, the Pac-12 Conference and other industry leaders on advancing the well-being of college student-athletes. I have been vocal about my support of the college model of athletics, which allows young men and women the opportunity to pursue an education while participating in their sport.”

AB Show 2022 in Orlando
AB Show is a solution-focused event for athletics, fitness, recreation and military professionals.
Learn More
AB Show
Buyer's Guide
Information on more than 3,000 companies, sorted by category. Listings are updated daily.
Learn More
Buyer's Guide