Mark Emmert: California Schools May Be Banned from NCAA Titles If Bill Passes

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistJune 24, 2019

NCAA President Mark Emmert answers questions at a news conference at the Final Four college basketball tournament, Thursday, April 4, 2019, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Matt York/Associated Press

As California's State Assembly attempts to pass a bill that would allow collegiate athletes within the state to receive compensation for usage of their likeness, name or image, NCAA President Mark Emmert implied that schools within the state could be banned from NCAA competition if the bill becomes law.

Emmert wrote as much in a letter to two chairs of State Assembly committees last week, per Steve Berkowitz of USA Today:

“We recognize all of the efforts that have been undertaken to develop this bill in the context of complex issues related to the current collegiate model that have been the subject of litigation and much national debate. Nonetheless, when contrasted with current NCAA rules, as drafted the bill threatens to alter materially the principles of intercollegiate athletics and create local differences that would make it impossible to host fair national championships. As a result, it likely would have a negative impact on the exact student-athletes it intends to assist."

Republican Jeff Stone directly articulated the potential NCAA response to the bill's passage, noting it would be "in direct conflict with NCAA policies on compensation. … This bill could result in our students and campuses being unable to participate in intercollegiate sports. It seems like it's a bill that would be more appropriate to entertain at the federal level."

The bill already passed California's senate, with approval now needed from the Assembly's Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media Committee. If the bill survives that hearing, it would then go to the Higher Education Committee, which would have to pass it by July 11 for it to go into effect this year, per Berkowitz.

Emmert is seeking a postponement in the committees, even though if passed, the resolution wouldn't go into effect until 2023.

College sports continues to rely on an amateurism model, in which its athletes are not directly paid or allowed to profit off endorsements, selling their autographs, etc.

The argument in favor of the amateurism model is that many student-athletes receive scholarships, room and board. The argument in favor of athletes either being paid or being permitted to make money off their own likeness is that college sports generates billions of dollars and the athletes at the center of such a booming business aren't receiving anything close to an adequate portion of that pie.

While there is some concern among California lawmakers about the NCAA's potential response, other lawmakers have been motivated by the opportunity to set a precedent for other states to follow.

"What we're doing is setting a marker," Democrat Bill Dodd said, per Berkowitz. "... Having this date set forward in 2023 allows the NCAA to do the job that they should be doing not just for California, but for all other 49 states in our great union."

It would set up an interesting staredown between California and the NCAA:

Of course, it's possible Emmert and the NCAA are simply making an effort to squash the resolution. It's just as possible that other states would join California, further forcing the NCAA's hand. The middle ground between amateurism and paying college athletes directly has long been considered allowing them to make money off their likeness.

The state of California is now pushing that potential compromise to the forefront of the conversation.