Andrew Zimbalist, President of The Drake Group – the mostly academic organization striving to reform collegiate athletics, issued the following statement on California Assembly Bill 252, a proposal to pay college athletes:
“While there are many elements in the California Assembly Bill 252 that concern us, there are a few that stand out as especially problematic. First, intercollegiate athletics is organized by division and conference, and, especially at the Division I level, it always involves interstate competition among schools. It is not tenable to legislate different economic systems in different states, and still have the competition proceed on a fair basis. Moreover, it is likely states will enter a race to the bottom, each attempting to create the most auspicious conditions to recruit and retain star athletes. The outcome would be chaotic and financially ruinous. What is needed is national legislation that governs the entirety of college sports.
Second, the way the bill is structured, it will shift resources away from women’s and Olympic sports toward men’s basketball and football, two sports that are already well-funded. Despite the bill’s attempts, the bill raises significant Title IX concerns and appears to be in violation of the law.
Third, contrary to popular opinion, college athletic departments are not rolling in money. In a typical year, only 20 to 25 programs nationally turn a nominal financial surplus, and that is without counting a large share of capital and indirect expenses. Indeed, the median reported athletic department deficit in NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision schools in 2019 (the last year before the pandemic) was $18.8 million. It has only grown since, and while we wholeheartedly support new college athlete name, image, and likeness (NIL) rights when properly implemented, the emergence of NIL rights has shifted donations and sponsorship revenue from the athletic department to the athletes.
For these reasons, The Drake Group does not support CA AB 252 and cautions against efforts by state legislatures to create special conditions in their states.”