The Recruiting Guy:

Lemming: Fair Play law inevitable

By: Richard Davenport
Published: Tuesday, October 8, 2019
This is an April 25, 2018, file photo showing NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File)
This is an April 25, 2018, file photo showing NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File)

The "Fair Pay to Play" Act signed into law by California Governor Gavin Newsom last week will likely change the way the NCAA operates, but no one really knows how.

The law allows athletes in the state to receive compensation for their name, image or likeness while also giving athletes the ability to hire agents. Money could be earned through several avenues, including apparel endorsements, endorsing businesses or products and autograph sessions at a local business.

Several lawmakers from other states have proposed similar plans.

"I thought it was inevitable something like that would happen," CBS Sports Network national recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said.

In 2013, USA Today reported only 23 of 228 athletics departments at NCAA Division I public schools operated in the black for 2012. While schools themselves wouldn't be obligated to pay athletes, each school's compliance departments would have to add more personal to oversee the additional work load should the California law is enacted nationwide and forces the NCAA embrace the new business model.

The University of Arkansas website currently lists six employees working in compliance.

The recruiting ramifications could be far and wide. While Lemming and others see a few star athletes benefiting, Lemming acknowledges things could get out of hand.

"To be honest, there's a good number of kids taking hands out going from schools already, it's just under the table," Lemming said. "It's been going on since college football became popular and now it will be above board."

One could foresee college coaches lining up boosters with business willing to promise recruits certain amount of income through endorsing their business or products.

"It will be bidding wars for kids, so they have to be careful because that will ruin college football," Lemming said.

Schools with bigger and richer alumni bases might benefit the most.

"It was just be a handful of schools with all the money," Lemming said. "It would be a super league probably maybe just 20 schools and another league with schools that don't have quite as much money or wealthy alumni and then another league at different levels. Who knows? It could go to that."

In-home visits with college coaches and high school prospects could focus more heavily on the potential earnings an athlete could see by attending a certain school instead of playing time or educational opportunities.

"I'm sure that will happen, if it goes national," Lemming said. "Then again, it will just be the top teams getting the money."

Attorneys for the NCAA and schools could have several challenges writing the possible new laws that would be needed.

"Endorsements is a pretty wide and broad spectrum," Lemming said. "When you look at it it's difficult to pin that down. Maybe you get one guy say he's going to promote my law office even they don't have a commercial for it. It opens it up to a lot of cheating. There's always ways around the rules anyway."

According to CBS Sports, college football attendance has declined for the seventh time in the last eight seasons, its lowest average in 22 years. Lemming believes the California model could turn off some fans.

"Absolutely right, a lot of schools will be and a lot of schools won't be able to keep up with the Joneses," Lemming said. "There's a lot of things to ponder, but in the long run it always almost works itself out."

The momentum the California law is creating towards paying athletes, may see the NCAA loosen up schools to pay athletes from a school's revenue even though a vast majority of schools run deficits.

"I think it does open the door for everyone to get paid maybe the same amount which could happen down the line," Lemming said. "Then what about all of the other sports. Basketball players will start wanting money and even the non- revenue sports."

The NCAA has seen unintended consequences from recent changes in the new redshirt rule which players can play in four games and sit the remainder of the season and not lose a year of eligibility and allows them to enter in the transfer portal. Several players have quit after four games and requested to transfer.

"There's a lot of kids that got caught without scholarships after they got themselves in the portal thinking they were going to be heavily sought after and they weren't....so I think it will adjust itself," Lemming said.

E-mail Richard Davenport at rdavenport@arkansasonline.com

Sports on 10/08/2019

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