The rules appear to be changing when it comes to who benefits financially from college sports. The National College Athletic Association’s board of governors has decided to allow college athletes the chance to be paid for the commercial use of their images, names and likenesses.

The board adopted the change Oct. 29 after California lawmakers adopted new law called the “Fair Play To Play Act.” Under that law, California would have become the first state to allow college athletes to be paid for use of their images or identities in commercial ventures such as video games or if they sign endorsement deals. Players would not be paid by their colleges for playing in games. Before the NCAA governors’ vote, Rep. Billy Mitchell (D-Stone Mountain) planned to introduce a version of the “Fair Pay to Play” legislation in the next Georgia General Assembly. The Reporter asked Mitchell why he thought the NCAA policy change was needed and also asked long-time Marist School football coach Alan Chadwick for his thoughts on the subject.

State Rep. Billy Mitchell: An idea whose time has come

Rep. Billy Mitchell (D-Stone Mountain) represents District 88 in the Georgia Legislature.

When the National Collegiate Athletic Association was originally formed in 1906, with the stated goal of creating and governing eligibility rules in intercollegiate sports, its founders could not have contemplated that the day would come where college athletic teams would be such a revenue generator that it would sustain multi-million dollar buildings, facilities, commercial dealings, media contracts, athletic administrations, coaches, conferences and even the NCAA itself.

The NCAA currently prohibits athletes, who make the entire enterprise possible, from receiving payment for competing, working with an agent or permitting the use of their name or likeness for commercial products or services, although virtually everyone around the athlete are able to profit, and profit handsomely.

Illustrative of the incongruent treatment of scholarship athletes, is the fact that there are no similar restrictions for academic scholarship students. Nothing in the rules prevents them from writing books, giving paid speeches, etc. Similarly with scholarship band students. No rules prevent them from performing in a band to work weekends, sell their music, being paid for their appearances, etc. Why the disparate treatment of scholarship athletes?

Georgia and other states are replete with examples of scholarship athletes being suspended and/or having their eligibility challenged for such infractions as selling a game jersey or autographing memorabilia.

Some will say that is an easily understood temptation when you place some students from impoverished backgrounds into situations where their own game jerseys and posters are available for sale in the bookstore, but they themselves cannot afford to purchase them. Some are placed in a situation where they cannot travel home and back to school on long breaks or to go to a movie with friends.

Will wonders ever cease?! I had planned to file a bill this upcoming legislative session that is modeled after California’s “Fair Pay to Play Act,” which was recently signed into law that would allow college athletes to be compensated in certain situations.

Just a few weeks ago, the NCAA was threatening legal action and bemoaned that this was a threat to amateurism in collegiate athletics. But as a result of the most recent NCAA Board of Governors meeting held in Atlanta and their unanimous vote to allow athletes to be compensated for the use of their image and likeness, it renders mine and other state’s legislative efforts unneeded!

I do agree with the NCAA’s leadership that a patchwork of states law addressing this issue from various different perspectives could have created more problems.

This clearly was an idea whose time has come, and am grateful to them for recognizing my legislation as part of the reason for them addressing this issue so quickly and I am therefore glad to withdraw my efforts in support of the NCAA’s efforts to do what my legislation proposed.

Coach Alan Chadwick: Amateur sports are worth saving

The recent approval of the NCAA board of governors to consider allowing college athletes to be compensated for the use of their names, images and likenesses for marketing purposes will no doubt have ongoing ramifications on several interesting issues.

Marist varsity football Head Coach Alan Chadwick.

First and foremost, is this a step toward a “pay for play” policy that the NCAA, the nonprofit organization that regulates college athletics, has tried to avoid for so many years? If it does indeed become the first step in that direction, then college athletics for male and female athletes could see sweeping changes in its entire landscape and structural balance.

The NCAA governors were reacting to the recent passage in California of a new law allowing college athletes to receive payment for use of their images, names and likenesses. Lawmakers in other states, including Georgia, were planning on considering similar legislation.

Former Heisman Trophy winner and NFL player Tim Tebow was recently quoted as saying the California law could change the way people view college sports.

“If I could support my team, support my college, support my university, that’s what it’s all about,” he said, according to various news reports. “But now we’re changing it from ‘us’ — from being an alumni where I care, which makes college sports special — to then, okay, it’s not about ‘us,’ it’s not about ‘we.’ It’s just about ‘me.’”

But schools are not going to sit by and let others raid their states of the best athletes without some sort of response. “I know we live in a selfish culture, where it’s all about us, but we’re just adding and piling it on to that, where it changes what’s special about college football,” he said. “We turn into the NFL, where who has the most money, that’s where you go.”

This type of ruling could also affect the recruiting landscape of high school athletes, although it is uncertain at this time how much and how large an effect it may generate. Still, it there’s no doubt that some schools could view pay for endorsements as creating an unfair advantage when it comes to signing five-star athletes.

Whether the potential changes are for the better or worse, only time will tell. Remuneration of college athletes is a very heated topic that is not going to be enacted easily and without much controversy.

Colleges and universities make millions of dollars from the work of unpaid athletes and many people think it is only fair to compensate them for their efforts on behalf of their school.

But others feel that doing so lessens the amateur status of college athletes and simply makes them paid performers like those on the professional level.

Personally, I feel that this will open up a whole great magnitude of issues and problems for intercollegiate athletics. Once you let the cat out of the bag, how do you get it back in?

College athletics, although not perfect by any means, has been a huge part of the fabric of American life for 150 years. The amateur status of college athletes, in my opinion, is worth saving.

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.