by Meaghan Cahill ’20
The issue as to whether or not college athletes should get paid has been a heavily debated topic in both the sports and academic worlds. On Oct. 29, the NCAA started the process that will answer the question once and for all.
The NCAA’s top governing board voted unanimously to permit the 460,000 students participating in collegiate athletics the opportunity “to benefit from the use of their name, image, and likeness in a manner consistent with the collegiate model.”
This decision comes just weeks after the NCAA called California’s Senate Bill 206 “Fair Pay for Play Act”—which calls for student-athlete compensation and representation from both state and private universities—“unconstitutional” and an “existential threat.”
On the initial motions to put this new rule into effect on college campuses across the country, NCAA President Mark Emmert said, “The board’s action…creates a path to enhance opportunities for student-athletes while ensuring they compete against students and not professionals.”
Adamant that the student-athletes are not to become employees of the schools at which they play, the NCAA’s new rule only allows student-athletes to enter into contracts for merchandise and endorsements; they are in no way allowed to be paid for their athletic performance in efforts to keep up with the amateur aspect of college athletics.
However, it can be argued that despite the attempts made by the NCAA, all amateur aspects of play have been wiped off of the table with an alarming force, and, while the intent is to enhance the student-athlete experience, the new law will become nothing more than a hinderance on their collegiate career.
To expand upon Emmert’s words, student-athletes will be competing against professionals. Typically, the athletes that big-name companies look to endorse and create merchandised gear for are the ones who they believe have the best shot at a professional career. No longer will athletes be looked at as amateurs, but, rather, the ones who are able to attract deals off of their name, image, and likeness will be singled out more so than they most likely would have been prior to an endorsement deal.
Due to this professional mentality that will naturally arise, the experience of the student-athlete is put at risk because the pressure on them to perform well will only be intensified. While they may not be making deals based on their actual play, it is their playing skills that will get them recognized by any type of company. There is a great risk for high levels of stress amongst student-athletes because now, not only will they have to perform well for the team to win, but they will have the added pressure of performing exceptionally well each game so that they do not lose whatever endorsement deals they may have struck.
While much of the law still has to take a clear, definitive shape, there are already too many issues that can (and will) arise with its implementation. Instead of conforming to California’s Senate Bill, the NCAA should maintain their initial response and look to protect all of their student-athletes from the dangers that this new law can impose on them.