California NIL Bill to revolutionize college sports

The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s NIL bill, also known as the Fair to Play Act, went into full effect on Jan. 1, 2023, in California, allowing college athletes within the state to make money off their name, image and likeness. Years after the bill was passed in 2019, the landscape of college sports is undergoing some of its most drastic changes by allowing college athletes to take a cut of the billion-dollar industry.

The amount of money the NCAA made while the athletes made nothing had always been somewhat unfair. According to Sportico, in 2021 the NCAA made a profit of $1.16 billion, with 85% of the revenue hailing from March Madness alone while “… the players receive zero compensation” according to Investopedia. Yet the real stars, the athletes, are kept away from the profits they brought in. Instead of awarding individual merit, the profits are spread out to support Division 1 and 2 sports as a whole. Historically, the NCAA distributed the profits across student scholarships, assistance funds and student-athlete services. Leading up to the bill, it was illegal for student-athletes to secure sponsorships, preventing them from directly making money off of their performance.

For years, the NCAA has operated on the idea that student-athletes were students first and athletes second, believing that college athletes should not be financially compensated for their abilities.

“Student-athletes shall be amateurs in an intercollegiate sport, and their participation should be motivated primarily by education and by the physical, mental and social benefits to be derived,”  the NCAA says in Article 2.9 of its 2021/22 Division I Manual.

As a result, the NIL bill’s implementation into the collegiate sport scene comes as an excitement to many student-athletes.

“I think it’s really cool that college athletes can get some recognition for all the work that they’re putting into their sports. I think it’ll create a cool opportunity, just for college athletes to be able to get paid,” said Logan Noguchi (11), a TPHS varsity swimmer committed to Princeton’s admissions processes.

Although Noguchi still has two years to think about using his NIL in college, he is happy to have the opportunity to advance his athletics in the future if he chooses to do so. 

Still, the world of social media sponsorships and company endorsements is not for everyone.

“I don’t already have a big platform [for sponsorships] and it’s just not something I’m really interested in pursuing,” said Marissa Gaut (12), a track and field and cross country athlete committed to Cornell’s admissions process. Instead, she plans to focus on being a student while also running on the side.

The NIL bill also helps athletes where working a traditional second job is not always an option.

“The fact that they can make some money off of their own NIL, benefit themselves financially, and find different avenues to make money rather than having to find a job in their offseason is helpful,” said Ryan Bath, the head track and field coach and freshman football assistant coach at Torrey Pines. 

Equipping athletes with the ability to be financially flexible even helps those who do not plan on going pro.

“I’d say for 90% of college athletes, the goal is to be able to get…a free or at least discounted education in college and athletics is a way to do that,” Bath said.

According to ESPN, even if an athlete plays a non-revenue sport, or an athletic activity that does not make money for the school athletes could make anywhere from $2.5K to $5K for camps and lessons.

Although the bill is still relatively new and regulations are constantly adapting for each college, it did not arrive a moment too soon. Because sports scholarships and student aid can be unpredictable and unreliable, equipping college athletes with the financial independence to support themselves helps them get a more affordable education.

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