California is known to be much different than all the other 49 states. It has so many laws that clash with the rest of the country that it is too hard to pick out any one, but there may be an exception. For some unexplained reason California legislators have decided that college athletes should be paid for their services, irrespective of the size of the school.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), an archaic group if there ever was one, has decided that there should be some type of compensation formula. A pair of state legislators have decided that they have a new way to pay college athletes by imposing a 15 percent tax on all college teams with half going to the athletes, and the balance going to an injury fund.
The idea of a general tax might be a good idea if all colleges were created equal. New York State has 131 private colleges and only 20 percent of them have sports at the highest level, which is known as Division I. Of the 500,000 student-athletes in the state, only 2 percent go on to become professional athletes. Paying everyone some compensation makes little sense for a lot of reasons.
Presently, NCAA rules prohibit compensation for athletes in college competition. So a New York law that the players must be compensated from a wage fund, would lead to the disqualification of all the teams. The next issue is that a wage fund would turn every athlete’s relationship into an employer-employee situation.
The next most logical step would be the formation of a college player union. How about a union strike on the opening day of the season?
Under the bill proposed by Senator Kevin Parker and Assemblywoman Solages, the other half of the athletic tax would go to an injury fund. That would make sense if the students didn’t have any insurance. Currently, the NCAA requires students to have health insurance that will cover the first $90,000 in medical costs where there is a sport-related injury. Any injury costing over $90,000 is covered by the NCAA catastrophic injury plan.
There is no doubt that any college athlete who is having a successful career should be compensated for the use of their image or even any endorsement that they make of some product or event. That would reward a small number of athletes, and if they truly excel on the field the rules should be changed. Having been a state legislator I introduced many bills for study and comment. For now, that is what this legislation needs and nothing more.
As best as I can remember, being a college athlete was a lot of fun. Somehow, getting paid for a sport that you enjoy sends the wrong message.
Former State Assemblyman Jerry Kremer is a columnist for Anton Media Group and partner at Ruskin Moscou Faltischek in Uniondale. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the publisher or Anton Media Group.