NCAA says California schools could be banned from championships if bill isn't dropped

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NCAA says California schools could be banned from championships if bill isn't dropped

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NCAA says California schools could be banned from championships if bill isn't dropped

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The NCAA is ratcheting up its opposition to a California bill that would allow college athletes in the state to earn compensation for the use of their own name, image or likeness, beginning in 2023.

In a letter to the chairs of two State Assembly committees last week, NCAA President Mark Emmert implied that if the bill becomes law as it is written, California schools could face the prospect of being prohibited from participating in NCAA championships. That includes 23 NCAA Division I schools, four of which are in the Pac-12 Conference: Cal, Stanford, UCLA and USC.

The bill overwhelmingly passed the state Senate last month.

On Tuesday, it was approved in a vote by the Assembly’s Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media Committee.

Daulet Tuleubayev and his Stanford teammates celebrate winning the men’s 2019 NCAA Championship in May. (Photo: Michael Woods, AP)

It now goes to the Higher Education Committee, which would have to approve it by July 11 for it to remain alive this year.

In his letter, Emmert asks the committees to postpone consideration of the bill while the NCAA reviews its rules concerning athletes’ ability to make money from their names, images and likenesses.

On May 14 – about a week before the Senate approved the bill by a 31-4 vote – the NCAA announced the creation of a “working group” of school presidents and athletics administrators to “examine issues highlighted in recently proposed federal and state legislation related to student-athlete name, image and likeness.”

Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.) introduced a bill in Congress in in March that has an intent similar to the California bill.

The NCAA panel is scheduled to update the association’s board of governors in August and make a final report in October. The California legislative session ends in September.

“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,” Emmert wrote in his letter to the committee chairs. “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.”

A spokeswoman for Assembly member Kansen Chu (D-San Jose), who will chair Tuesday’s hearing, said Emmert’s letter prompted Chu to seek an amendment from the bill’s author, Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley). Late last week, wording was added that says “it is the intent of the Legislature to monitor” the NCAA working group and “revisit this issue to implement significant findings and recommendations of the NCAA working group in furtherance of the statutory changes proposed by this act.”

And the statutory changes proposed by the bill remain intact.

“We wanted to say that we know that a process is going on now, but we do want to see something substantial come out of that stakeholder group,” said Chu’s spokeswoman, Annie Pham.

Name, image and likeness has been a nearly non-stop issue for the NCAA since 2009, when lawyers representing former football player Sam Keller and former basketball player Ed O’Bannon filed separate antitrust suits against the association that centered on video games. The idea of California legislators seeking to impose a remedy is not sitting well with the association.

Emmert wrote that even though the bill would not take effect until 2023, “passage of the bill now will create confusion among prospective and current student-athletes and our membership. The impact of a prematurely passed bill would be difficult to untangle.”

During debate in the state senate prior its final vote on the bill, those opposing the bill directly articulated the potential threat to California schools.

The bill would place schools “in direct conflict with NCAA policies on compensation. … This bill could result in our students and campuses being unable to participate in intercollegiate sports,” said Jeff Stone (R-Temecula). “It seems like it’s a bill that would be more appropriate to entertain at the federal level.”

Bill Dodd (D-Napa) said he initially had reservations about the bill, he now believes it appropriately positions California to be a leader in pressing for national change. “What we’re doing,” he said, “is setting a marker. … 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.”

As with other national matters, including auto-emission standards, California lawmakers have ventured into college athletics on their own before.

In 2012, the legislature passed – and then-Gov. Jerry Brown signed – a law that termed the Student Athlete Bill of Rights. Taking effect with the start of the 2012-13 school year, it requires the state’s four Pac-12 schools, among other things, to provide academic or other scholarships for athletes who lose an athletic scholarship due to injury. In addition, if, while playing for a team, an athlete suffers an injury that requires ongoing medical treatment, the school must continue providing that treatment for at least two years after the athlete’s graduation or departure from the school.

In October 2014, the Pac-12 passed a rule that increased post-college medical coverage from its schools to four years. And in 2018, the other four Power Five conferences agreed to provide this coverage for at least two years.

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