Iowa Football

Days of NCAA denying players individual rights are dwindling

What was made law in California Monday will soon spread everywhere

Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley (4), a player people buy tickets to watch. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley (4), a player people buy tickets to watch. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — When change has momentum, all the fear and loathing about it usually yields and then subsides.

Same-sex marriage, medical marijuana, sports betting — those things went from never to law in various states with pushback along the way. Eventually, we often wonder what the hubbub was about.

California changed the college athletics game Monday when Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the Fair Pay to Play Act (SB 206) into law that will go in effect in 2023. The law prohibits California schools from denying athletes the chance to profit from their names, images and likenesses.

Predictably, it was denounced by many.

“I hope it doesn’t destroy opportunities and competitive balance” in collegiate athletics, said Nebraska football coach Scott Frost, which is funny since no one will confuse Nebraska’s Big Ten with the Mid-American Conference.

Many fans don’t like it, often claiming scholarship athletes are compensated plenty. They don’t walk away with the student loans to pay off that I do, many say, though they didn’t work year-round in the role of performer for their alma maters.

But other states appear ready to fall in line with California. If so, they would be guilty of supporting a free market and capitalism. No other group of citizens in this country are prevented from getting paid for, basically, being who and what they are.

None of the money would come out of the schools’ pockets. Athletics departments and coaches can still collect pots of gold from Nike. Nick Saban won’t be denied the opportunity to continue appearing with a duck in commercials for an insurance company.

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This isn’t something current college athletes seem too militant about. To no surprise, since Iowa football players aren’t coached to be feather-rufflers, the Hawkeyes I approached Tuesday were unconcerned about it.

“I know the school takes care of us pretty well,” said Hawkeye linebacker Djimon Colbert. “I can only speak for the scholarship guys. We get a monthly stipend.”

In 2015, the five major conferences voted to strengthen the value of full athletic scholarships by paying stipends ranging from $2,000 to $5,000 annually. It usually adds up to less per school in a year than what they pay their head football coach.

Quarterback Nate Stanley would be among the Hawkeyes most likely to cash in this fall were the NCAA to suddenly allow it. He doesn’t care.

“Obviously, it would be nice,” Stanley said. “But we get so many benefits just playing sports. ... We get a lot of benefits I think some people might not realize we get.

“For me to come to school here from Wisconsin, if I just paid out of my own pocket it’d be like $40,000 a year. That’s more than a lot of people get to live on.”

Interestingly, college athletes of the past seem to have a different perspective.

“Gone is the power, manipulation these universities, athletic directors, coaches have had,” former USC/NBA basketball star Reggie Miller tweeted Monday. “Everyone should have a hand in the cookie jar.”

ESPN basketball commentator Jay Bilas played at Duke. He has long been a critic of what he considers hypocritical NCAA rules on amateurism.

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Bilas mocked an NCAA statement saying the new California law “already is causing confusion for current and future student-athletes, coaches, administrators and campuses, and not just in California.

“This whole thing is so confusing,” Bilas said, “unless all of the money is going into your pocket. It’s pretty freaking clear and understandable then.”

Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta said “Let’s see how this unfolds.

“The NCAA does have a task force looking at it. The collegiate model is great. It can also improve. I’m trying to figure out how this would work and I’m not going to rush to judgment.

“The image and likeness are about individual rights and I certainly respect individual rights. How does that mix and match with being part of a team?”

Barta and his peers know this is coming. The sky won’t fall. The people who are the primary reason people buy tickets to games or watch them on television will soon get a few more cookies from the jar.

Comments: (319) 368-8840; mike.hlas@thegazette.com

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