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California Bill Would Create NIL Funds for Athletes

Jason Scott

The author of a bill that would require California universities to pay student-athletes is pushing to have the legislation made law in 2021.

According to the Marin Independent Journal, Assembly Bill 609, or The College Athlete Race and Gender Equity Act, would remake collegiate athletics in California, with an immense impact on the Pac-12 Conference and other entities with a footprint in the state.

The legislation, authored by state assembly member Sydney Kamlager would create a royalty fund for student-athlete compensation for the use of their name, image or likeness; impose penalties on athletic directors whose departments fail to comply with Title IX; place limits on the construction of new athletics facilities; and cap salaries and operational expenses for coaches and administrators.

Kamlager said that the bill was crafted in the wake of the pandemic, which “reaffirmed the value of the players to the schools, the teams and the divisions.”

“The goal is to compensate the athletes for their work,’’ Kamlager said. “They aren’t playing college football because it’s a hobby.”

Kamlager’s legislation differs from the so-called Fair Pay to Play Act, which is set to go into effect by 2023, in an important way. While the Fair Pay to Play Act would allow collegiate student-athletes to seek compensation for their name, image and likeness through endorsements or promotions, AB-609 would require funds to be disbursed to student-athletes in football and men’s and women’s basketball, as long as certain revenue thresholds were met.

The bill text reads in part:

“This bill would require institutions of higher education with sports in which 50% of the institution’s total sports revenue in the state exceeds the total aggregate grant-in-aid athletics scholarship amount provided to the institution’s college athletes in the sport during the reporting year to pay a name, image, and likeness royalty fee to each qualifying college athlete, as specified. The bill would require each institution of higher education to comply with Title IX of the federal Education Amendments of 1972 as it applies to college athletics, to suspend an athletic director from intercollegiate athletics responsibilities in the state for three years if Title IX compliance is not achieved on or before January 1, 2025, and maintained for at least 6 months in each 12-month period after January 1, 2025, and to preserve each athletic program’s college athletes’ educational opportunities and grant-in-aid athletic scholarship amounts, including by requiring program cost-cutting options be implemented before, or simultaneously with, any reduction in college athletes’ aggregate unduplicated participation numbers or grant-in-aid athletic scholarship amounts. To the extent the bill would impose additional obligations on community college districts, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program.”

“How do you adjust the lopsided pie that is the revenue coming to the NCAA and to the Pac-12, and that comes out of the athletic departments, and where do the student-athletes fit in?” Kamlager said of her proposed bill.

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