NCAA President Weighs In on California Legislation

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In an interview with The Indianapolis Star, NCAA president Mark Emmert said that the new law passed in California this week “is just a new form of professionalism and a different way of converting students into employees.”

The California law, slated to go into effect in 2023, will allow student-athletes to earn money from use of their name, image and likeness. Since it was signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, a number of lawmakers in states around the country have spoken out about their plans to introduce similar legislation. 

In the interview, Emmert voiced his concerns about the laws and their implications for the collegiate athletics model. 

“The biggest worry is that when you have complete unfettered licensing agreements or unfettered endorsement deals, the model of college athletics is negligible at best and maybe doesn’t even exist,” Emmert said. “Those deals would be arranged with support or engagement of school… so they do become professional employees of schools. That is what most member schools are concerned about, not that people are opposed to have an appropriate way to get some form of [compensation for athletes].”

When the California legislation was being debated, athletic directors spoke out in opposition. If the law goes into effect without the NCAA updating its rules regarding name, image and likeness, schools would be faced with a choice of either operating in violation of a state law, or operating in violation of an NCAA bylaw. 

“We have 1,100 member schools and after talking to a full cross section of presidents, athletic directors, the vast majority of them all see and recognize this is an area where we need to continue to evolve our rules,” Emmert told the Star

An NCAA working group studying the issue is expected to present recommendations to the NCAA Board of Governors in late October.

Emmert went on to suggest that the best entity to discuss rule changes is the NCAA itself, but admitted that he wished his organization had been more proactive. 

“You always want to be proactive on any of these issues,” he said. “Do I wish it had been started 10 years ago? Sure, but the fact is we were not in a place where we could do it.”

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