CHARLOTTE, N.C. — California’s recent passing of the Fair Pay to Play Act sent shockwaves through the college basketball world.
The bill, headed by California governor Gavin Newsom, makes it possible for collegiate athletes in California to profit off their name, image and likeness. The bill goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2023.
Once the news broke, people on each side weighed in.
Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James was outspoken in his support of the bill, while others, including NCAA President Mark Emmert, were more critical. Several ACC basketball coaches shared their thoughts at ACC Media Day on Tuesday.
Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski didn’t hold back in his support of the bill.
“We need to stay current with what’s happening,” Krzyzewski said. “I’m glad it was passed because it pushes the envelope a little. It pushes the issue.”
Since California’s bill passed, other states, including New York and South Carolina, are discussing similar legislation.
“I bet by the time this season’s over, you’re going to see dozens of states passing this legislation,” Krzyzewski said. “It’s really a sign that we probably have not adapted over the last few decades in a logical progression like we have in amateur sports in the Olympic model … This needs to be looked at as a total package of what’s right for the student.”
Many coaches and administrators agree that paying players or allowing them to profit from their name, image or likeness is a complicated issue that requires careful consideration.
Virginia Director of Athletics Carla Williams is among those considering the benefits and drawbacks of allowing collegiate athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness.
She became a member of the newly appointed NCAA working group that studies the issue in May.
The committee was created a few months prior to the Fair Pay to Play Act, but the bill is forcing the NCAA and other states to take an expedited look at the rights of players.
“I’d be lying if I [said I] had a great handle on it,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “I think it needs to be investigated further. I’m all for the student-athletes having more opportunities to receive funding, whether it’s through the name and likeness, if it can be fairly equitable and doesn’t affect the game and other sports and all that in a bad way.”
Bennett wasn’t as strong as Krzyzewski in his comments about the bill, as Virginia’s coach discussed both sides of the equation.
“This isn’t the NBA,” Bennett said. “Yes, there’s components of the college game that have a professional feel and all that, but I just love the — and I use this word cautiously — the purity of the college game.”
Through all of Bennett’s comments, the one focus was the student-athlete experience. Whether players make money in college or not, Bennett wants the final decision to benefit the players and enhance their overall experience.
“There’s a lot at stake, and you don’t want to jeopardize it,” Bennett said. “But you have to look at the system, and if there’s areas that it’s broke, or things we can do better to help the students, absolutely I’m all for it.”
Players making money off their name, image and likeness is a hot-button issue in collegiate athletics.
There seem to be more questions than answers about the future of paying athletes and how collegiate athletics will continue to operate under its current model. The dialogue surrounding the issue can often become quite heated, and it’s hard to find reasonable dialogue on both sides about the pros and cons of allowing amateur athletes to make money.
“I think we’re in a very interesting spot right now, where if you’re a coach and you don’t agree with it wholeheartedly, you kind of get killed,” Pittsburgh coach Jeff Capel said. “If you say that you don’t have a comment on it, you get killed. So you basically get killed unless you agree with it 100%. I don’t think that’s fair.”
Capel, a standout player at Duke from 1993-97, thinks players should be able to earn money from their name, image and likeness. During his time at Duke, he saw first-hand what it was like to not make money off his name and likeness.
“I always thought it was very odd that I could go up to the bookstore — and I think [my jersey] was around $70 or $75 — and I would have to pay and buy it if I wanted to get it for my younger brother or my cousins,” Capel said. “If Duke gave it to me, I would be in violation and wouldn’t be able to play. I thought there was something odd about that.”
He does feel like some limitations should be in place, though. He’s fine with players making money on social media advertisements as well, but he thinks there should be some restrictions in place to keep the process controlled.
Capel thinks the NCAA could benefit from “outside-the-box thinking” and organized leadership to help make an informed decision on the topic.
“There needs to be pinpoint leadership, where it needs to be someone in charge of it,” Capel said. “Where it’s not all these committees, it’s not all these things. There needs to be, ‘Well, this is the way it is.’”
Capel and other coaches like Krzyzewski believe change is long overdue. Krzyzewski was open about the NCAA needing to better get ahead of pressing issues.
“We need to not have our head in the sand,” Krzyzewski said. “We’ve had our head in the sand a lot … we’re not good game planners for the future. We’re very much reactionary. We’re reactionary to this bill. We don’t set the pace, and we need to learn how to do that.”
Much like the other coaches, Krzyzewski didn’t pretend to have a perfect solution to the issue of players making money in college, but he stressed that something needs to be done.
“I don’t have the answer,” Krzyzewski said. “But I’d like to have a bunch of people get together over a period of time and play catch up with what we probably should have been doing more of a decade or two ago.”