Pay college athletes in California? Maybe

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When Kedon Slovis was announced as the backup to USC starting quarterback JT Daniels, some eyebrows were raised among the Trojans faithful. 

After all, Slovis was an unheralded three-star recruit from Scottsdale, Ariz., who didn’t get a lot of interest from Division I schools. USC and Oregon State were the only Pac-12 teams to offer him a scholarship. 

The true freshman, who graduated high school early and was famously excused from spring practices to attend his high school prom, was given the No. 2 spot over more experienced players despite never taking a snap in college. 

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Slovis was adequate in relief after Daniels tore his ACL against Fresno State: 6-of-8, 57 yards, an interception. 

Now, after a record-setting night in which he led the Trojans to a 45-20 dismantling of then-No. 23 Stanford, Slovis is being hailed as USC football’s savior. 

After Slovis completed 28 of 33 passes for 377 yards and three touchdowns, leading the Trojans to 35 unanswered points, he found himself atop a step ladder, waving a sword while the jubilant crowd chanted, “MVP! MVP!” 

From unknown freshman to Big Man on Campus in one night. 

A bill making its way through the California legislature would allow future stars-in-the-making like Slovis to profit from their own likenesses. 

SB206, the Fair Pay to Play Act, passed the California Assembly 72-0 on Monday. 

Nancy Skinner, a co-creator of the bill, announced the vote on Twitter on Monday evening: “BOOM!!! The California Assembly just approved my bill, #SB206, the Fair Pay to Play Act, on 66-0 vote! It will allow California college athletes to earn money from their name, image, and likeness. It’s now back to the Senate for a concurrence vote.” 

The California State Senate approved the bill by a 31-5 vote in April, but it has been amended since then. SB206 will return to the house for a concurrence vote. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom would have 30 days to sign or veto the bill. If he does neither, SB206 would become law and go into effect on July 1, 2023. 

Prominent athletes quickly voiced support for the bill. 

Calling it a “game changer,” LeBron James encouraged the Californians among his 43 million Twitter followers to call on their representatives to support the bill. 

“California!!! Extremely excited about the bill that passed tonight allowing players to be paid,” Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green wrote on Twitter. “Finally, we are making some progress and getting this thing right.” 

Predictably, the NCAA had other ideas. 

In a June letter to the California Assembly, NCAA president Mark Emmert implied that California schools could be banned from NCAA championships. 

“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, according to USA Today. “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.” 

Advocates of the bill say it’s a matter of fairness. 

Writing in The Orange County Register, Skinner pointed out that many non-athletes, such as Microsoft founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen and music stars Art Garfunkel and Mos Def, made money while at school without jeopardizing their college eligibility. But thanks to the NCAA, athletes are not afforded the same rights. 

“If they were to earn money, they would lose their scholarships and be banned from sports,” Skinner wrote, “an outcome that would likely force many students, especially those from low-income families, to leave school.” 

While the bill would affect only California schools, the state is home to more than 20 Division I programs. 

If Slovis really is USC’s next superstar, he’ll be playing on Sundays by 2023. But if this bill becomes law, it will set up a showdown with the NCAA and perhaps pave the way for future Kedon Slovises to profit on their own likenesses. 

Saturday

Pittsburgh at Penn State -17: The Nittany Lions sputtered in the first half on Saturday, trailing Buffalo 10-7 at the break. That gave coach James Franklin some ammunition in the locker room.

His speech worked as the Nittany Lions roared back, routing the Bulls 45-13.

Don’t expect another slow start in this renewed rivalry against a Panthers team that has been offensively challenged and hits the road for the first time. PENN STATE

Army -17.5 at UT San Antonio: If you like passing, this isn’t the game for you. And that’s just fine with the Black Knights. Army attempted just five passes but still took Michigan to overtime on Saturday.

The Cadets should find plenty of running lanes against a Roadrunners defense that surrendered 368 rushing yards against Baylor. ARMY

Texas Tech -2.5 at Arizona, Total 76.5: Red Raiders coach Matt Wells was unhappy with his performance in his team’s 38-3 win over UTEP. The schedule-makers have just the answer for him: Arizona’s defense.

The Wildcats surrendered 89 points in a loss to Hawaii and a win over Northern Arizona. Wells will get his offense going. TEXAS TECH and OVER

Last week: 0-3

Season: 2-5

 

About the Author

Ched Whitney

Ched Whitney has been a journalist in Las Vegas since 1994. He worked for the Las Vegas Review-Journal for 18 years, where he was the paper’s art director for 12. Since becoming a freelancer in 2012, his work has appeared at ESPN.com, AOL, The Seattle Times and UNLV Magazine, among others. ​

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