California Governor Gavin Newsom signed SB 206, the Fair Pay To Play act, into law earlier this week, and the result has been a tidal wave of political action, as legislators from around the country have made the move to try and curry favor with their base by taking similar steps.
Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Washington have had lawmakers take steps towards introducing similar bills. At the federal level, congressmen from Connecticut, North Carolina and Ohio have been working towards finding a way to overthrow the NCAA’s amateurism model, while presidential candidate Andrew Yang has used this as part of his campaign.
And it makes sense.
According to a poll conducted by Seton Hall, more than 60% of Americans support players being allowed access to their name, image and likeness rights while 80% of Americans under the age of 30 support it.
At this point, the question seems to be when, not if, the concept of amateurism in college athletics will be erased from our lives forever.
The question that I’ve gotten more than any other this week is what the real impact is going to be.
Dan Wetzel over at Yahoo Sports put together a list of nine things that are going to change, but that list is more big picture and focuses on the football side of things. There are three points that he does make – which we have discussed in this space before – that will have real and significant impact on college basketball.
1. IT WILL HELP KEEP PLAYERS IN SCHOOL
I’ve made this point over and over again in recent years. I wrote an entire column on it after the early entry deadline past on May 30th. There is a very real talent drain in college basketball. There were 87 players with eligibility remaining that left school to turn pro.
This is the truth: If you are a player that is projected as a top 100 prospect in the sport, someone that is going to have some kind of significant professional basketball career, it makes financial sense for you to leave school as early as possible. First round picks get guaranteed contracts. According to a study I did last summer, if you are a player that is picked in the first 20 picks of the second round, odds are very, very good that you are going to get yourself a guaranteed deal with an NBA team. Players that are drafted at the end of the second round often end up on two-way deals or on G League rosters, where the salaries that NBA organizations can offer have been boosted. That doesn’t include the players that have their agents tell NBA teams they do not want to be drafted in the second round and would rather enter the professional realm as a free agent; that happens more than you think. Then there are the guys that opt to play overseas, where the top leagues can prove to be quite profitable, especially for players that are able to obtain citizenship in other countries.
That’s before we factor in the kids that never actually make it to college. Every year, we see more and more players opt to take a different path to the NBA, whether it is sitting out and training, going to Australia for a year or taking an extra season in prep school so they can head straight to the draft.
Let’s say the average professional basketball player keeps getting contracts until they are 30 years old – and that might be generous. If you are a 20 year old sophomore that is good enough to play professionally, than returning to school would mean that you are missing out on 10 percent of your earning potential by returning to school. Throw in the fact that most schools will guarantee the scholarships for these athletes if they turn pro and then come back in a decade, and you don’t have to be an Investment Banker to figure out what makes the most sense financially.
Opening up name, image and likeness rights is going to make a very, very small percentage of college basketball players rich.
But what it will do is convince some players to come back to school. Maybe Creighton’s Martin Krampelj comes back for his final season if he can make $30,000 in endorsements. Maybe Syracuse guard Tyus Battle plays his final season in Orange if Dinosaur BBQ can pay him to be the face of their line of dry rubs. Maybe Oregon doesn’t lose Kenny Wooten. Maybe West Virginia returns Sagaba Konate. LSU’s Tremont Waters. UCF’s Aubrey Dawkins. Iowa’s Tyler Cook. Minnesota’s Amir Coffey.
The list goes on and on.
2. THIS REALLY WILL HELP THE BEST MID-MAJORS
The best schools are still going to get the best players when these rules change.
Duke and Kentucky are going to continue to rake whichever elite players they target. Kansas will no longer be “a victim” of the help provided by Adidas. Nike is going to make sure that Oregon and North Carolina have rosters that keep them competitive.
Point being, the big dogs are still going to eat.
But in college basketball, where things can really be impacted will at the programs where basketball ranks first, second and third, and where there is big money to be spent. I think this will be really good for programs in the Big East. Wetzel, in his column, mentions Villanova and Georgetown, and that makes sense. There are a lot of alums with a lot of money that care about their basketball teams. I think it also helps programs like UConn, Marquette and, particularly, Creighton. The Bluejays sell out an NBA-sized arena in a town that doesn’t really have all that much else to do.
Wichita State would be another example. I can’t imagine what Memphis will be like if FedEx is allowed to officially team up with Penny and Mike Miller on the recruiting trail. VCU has a huge and passionate fan base. So does Dayton. St. Bonaventure’s fans are as crazy as anyone. Nevada. BYU. UNLV.
It works at a smaller level as well. Murray State, for example, plays in a league that’s off the map but has a big enough fan base to be able to entice some bigger recruits to town if the price is right. Vermont already recruits above their level. Hell, this would probably be really good for places in the Ivy League – Harvard, Yale, Penn, Princeton.
They’re not going to start getting every player, but it could be what allows them in the door with a player at a level above what they’re recruiting now.
3. TRANSFERS WILL GET REALLY MESSY
Losing their best players to bigger schools is already a major problem for mid-major programs, and that’s before it’s legal to get paid. If you’re a power conference school and you lose your starting backcourt to the NBA draft a year earlier than expected, why wouldn’t you go out and offer too much of your boosters’ money to the kid at UNC Asheville that averaged 16 and six assists as a junior?
Every professional sport on the planet sees teams waste money when signing players in a panic. College sports would be no different.