UB’s sports law expert sees a fast-approaching crossroads on NCAA enforcing its amateur status on athletes
By the University at Buffalo
A growing “wagon train” of legislation challenging the NCAA’s rules against compensating collegiate athletes has “tremendous ramifications” on whether amateur athletes can be paid while still in college, according to the University at Buffalo’s sports law expert Helen “Nellie” Drew.
“Is the NCAA being unfair?” asked Drew, director of UB’s Center for the Advancement of Sport, who is frequently interviewed by national and local media on sports law issues. “California and South Carolina apparently think so.”
Earlier this month, the California legislature approved a Fair Pay to Play Act, which, if signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, would prohibit the NCAA from penalizing California institutions from allowing student athletes to receive compensation for the use of their name, image and/or likeness.
“The NCAA didn’t budge from its historic position in the O’Bannon case,” said Drew, referring to the antitrust class action lawsuit filed by former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon to allow former college athletes to be compensated for the NCAA’s commercial use of a player’s image. “The NCAA sent Gov. Newsom a letter urging him to veto the bill – which passed both the California Senate and Assembly unanimously.”
Meanwhile, Drew said, South Carolina has “entered the fray, with a member of each house of the South Carolina Legislature stating their intent to file a similar bill as California when that Legislature reconvenes in January.”
“While the Fair Pay to Play act would not take effect until January 2023, the potential ramifications if just one state adopts it – California has 23 Division I schools, including four members of the PAC-12 Conference – are tremendous,” Drew said. “If other states jump on the bandwagon, as South Carolina appears poised to do, the NCAA’s ability to define and enforce the amateur status of collegiate athletes will be in jeopardy.
“The NCAA is fast approaching a crossroads as the wagon train of increasing litigation and now legislation picks up momentum.
“It remains to be seen what the path forward will be.”