California is putting pressure on the NCAA, but how corrupt is the system already?

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Perhaps the most debated topic surrounding college sports over the last few years is whether college athletes should receive compensation for their sacrifices for their schools. Recently, California enacted the Fair Pay to Play Act, which would give athletes within the state control over their own compensation. Of course, this new law would not go into effect until 2023; however, it was designed to push the NCAA to change its own compensation laws for good.

It is a fairly known fact at this point in time that the NCAA as a whole is becoming a gargantuan revenue stream, with its money coming from advertisements and marketing rights, sales on merchandise, and tournaments such as March Madness. In last year’s financial year, the NCAA garnered a total of $1.064 billion in revenue, and to every college athlete’s dismay, none of them made even one cent, or so the NCAA likes to think.

The unfortunate effect of the NCAA refusing to pay college athletes is that now top-tier high school recruits will take money from college programs, like Leo Lewis, now a senior linebacker at Mississippi State, who was gifted money by multiple programs before ever committing to a school. Lewis is alleged to have received around $21,000 from schools recruiting him and their “bag men.”

A “bag man” scheme is a sort of illegal aid for college athletics programs who believe in some way they are leveraging the way their team is playing, whether it be with $300 or $3,000, but it is always cash. Athletes and college programs alike have become dependent on these bag men, and as long as the NCAA doesn’t allow compensation for college athletes, this dirty game will continue with rare consequences.

But who’s fault is it that players feel the need to take this illegal money from colleges and their bagmen? Is it the NCAA’s rules not allowing college athletes to make money off of their performances or likenesses? Or is it the college’s fault for bringing this part of the business to the athletes? Either way, the athletes are the ones continuously punished, and it isn’t their fault.

During this year’s March Madness tournament, the NCAA debuted a new commercial, in which somewhat of a story is told about the “day in a life” of a college athlete. However, there was an abundance of both college and professional athletes alike trashing the ad and the NCAA for completely disregarding what being a college athlete actually is like. In response, Chase Vaughn, a former college and NFL football player tweeted, “Where the early morning workout? I don’t see any ice wrapped on that arm he’s raising. Did he not have any homework or studying to do before bed? What kind of major he got? Underwater basket weaving? And this bum doesn’t watch film but got time to dance. NCAA is lying to these kids.”

Where the early morning workout? I don’t see any ice wrapped on that arm he’s raising. Did he not have any homework or studying to do before bed? What kind of major he got? Underwater basket weaving? And this bum doesn’t watch film but got time to dance. NCAA is lying to these kids”

— Chase Vaughn

Steven Godfrey, SB Nation sports reporter, said in his famous Youtube series, Foul Play, “The college football that you and I know and love would not benefit from everybody being completely honest. And the college football you and I both know and love wouldn’t exist if everyone was playing by the rules. The best thing for college football is to uphold the illusion of a process, to uphold an illusion of enforcement. And that’s what the NCAA is for.”

At this point, as long as the NCAA has its amateurism rules in place, this will stay true. It is because of the NCAA that these students rely on dirty, under-the-table money to help them pay rent and other expenses. Living that type of life leaves these athletes relying on people in their lives with axes to grind, ultimately screwing over the people making all of the money for the cooperation that is, the NCAA.