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Local Athletic Directors Weigh-In On College ‘Fair Pay For Play’ Law

Athletic directors Bill McGillis of University of San Diego (left), John Davi...

Credit: KPBS

Above: Athletic directors Bill McGillis of University of San Diego (left), John David Wicker of San Diego State (center) and Earl Edwards of UC San Diego (right).

UPDATE: 12:25 p.m., Oct. 29, 2019:

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While San Diego State is the only local university with a major football and basketball program, it's not the only school that could be impacted by the new state law allowing college athletes to profit from their images.

Aired: October 29, 2019 | Transcript

In an unprecedented move the NCAA has begun the process of allowing college athletes across the nation to cash in on their name, image and likeness. Tuesday the NCAA board of governors voted unanimously to update rules allowing athletes to sign endorsement deals by 2021.

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California’s Fair Pay To Play Act was written mainly for student-athletes in big programs such as USC, UCLA and even San Diego State — but smaller programs will still be impacted by the legislation allowing athletes to sign endorsement deals, say two local athletic directors.

San Diego State's athletic department didn't waste time commenting on the new law, which Gov. Gavin Newsom signed in September and is not scheduled to go into effect until 2023.

"I don’t support SB 206 in the sense that they’ve gone out and created a law that now puts us in direct conflict with the NCAA and NCAA rules," said SDSU director of athletics John David Wicker during the week the law was signed.

The NCAA, which governs college athletics, has said the law would give an unfair recruiting advantage to California schools and could bar them from competing. On Tuesday, the NCAA's Board of Governors is meeting to formally discuss the issue for the first time, according to ESPN.

While Wicker does not support the law, he said he's not necessarily against student-athletes making money. "We’re going to work on finding a way for students to take advantage of these new opportunities," he said.

RELATED: SDSU Football Players Cheer New Collegiate Pay Law While Expert Warns Of Chaos

Though SDSU is the only local university with a major football and basketball program, it is not the only school that stands to be impacted by the new legislation.

"I’m going to say it’s a concern — it's not a fear for me in that I know that groups are working together to resolve that," said UC San Diego director of athletics Earl Edwards. He also is not against athletes being able to sell their name, image and likeness.

"Whatever we come up with it needs to be something that’s manageable and workable for the student perspective as well as the colleges," Edwards said.

Edwards did say, however, that there are already some unintended consequences from the law.

Reported by Matt Hoffman , Video by Roland Lizarondo

"I would say the immediate impact is that there is negative recruiting with individuals saying that if you go to California and this law passes and you’re not eligible for NCAA competition then in that regards that’s a problem for us as a California school," he said.

Governor Newsom has said colleges and universities are making billions while student-athletes get nothing.

"Everybody is making it," Newsom said after he signed the law. "Coaches, athletic directors, assistant coaches all the advertisers the programs director themselves — everybody except the athletes."

Edwards said Newsom is not taking into account the benefits that scholarship athletes receive.

"The idea that athletes aren’t being compensated is something I don’t agree with," Edwards said. "Particularly when you look at the scholarship aspect when you look at the meals when you look at the travel."

University of San Diego athletic director Bill McGillis argues much of the money that is made from athletics goes back to students.

"The universities are not owners in the way that professional sports owners have franchises — it’s money that stays within the institution and gets reinvested in athletic programs and academic programs that benefit the students," McGillis said.

McGillis also thinks the NCAA should do a better job of communicating how student-athletes are being compensated right now.

"So above and beyond books, tuition, fees, room and board school is covered — above and beyond that at the highest levels, which I think legislators are most concerned about, most students are also receiving a cost of attendance stipend," he said. "On average nationally probably $5,000."

Student-athletes interviewed by KPBS said change is needed.

"I feel like universities make a lot of money off the players so I don’t understand why it’s not okay for us to receive some of that money," said SDSU football player Luq Barcoo.

"I think it’s maybe something that will definitely benefit student-athletes," said SDSU football player Parker Houston.

SDSU football players are some of the region’s most high-profile collegiate athletes, but what about star-athletes from lesser-known sports?

"I was kind of bummed that my sport is one of those that is kind of left out of the situation because rowing isn’t the most popular sport," said USD women's rower Kadee Sylla.

Sylla is one of the top collegiate rowers in the country but does not believe there would be many opportunities for her to sign an endorsement deal.

"I can see maybe some company that provides boats or gear for rowing maybe reaching out — but it’s very slim," she said.

Sylla said if the law was in effect now she would look for opportunities.

"If I was able to make money off getting an agent or a sponsorship I would 100% do it because it would help my well being and my financial situation," Sylla said.

Whatever the outcome of the NCAA's Board of Governors meeting, current student-athletes won't be the beneficiary of the new law. It won't go into effect until 2023.

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Matt Hoffman
General Assignment Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI am a general assignment reporter for KPBS. In addition to covering the latest news and issues that are relevant to the San Diego community, I like to dig deeper to find the voices and perspectives that other media often miss.

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