Greeson: California bill could open the door to much larger paydays for college athletes

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OK, and maybe the terrain is so new, so unknown, so anti-everything we have come to know and rely on in college sports that each passing NIL headline is the next rung down the ladder to the bottomless pit of "total college sports game-changer."

And yes, yahoos like me much-too-frequently use the extreme superlatives of 'most' or 'GOAT' and become over reliant on over-the-top phrases that this will change everything or will ruin it as we know it.

So, the 'columnist who cries wolf' hyperbole aside, we must acknowledge that change is often a great thing. Think of the many milestones that folks at the time wondered whether those changes would ruin a sport when, in actuality, it was never close and in a lot of cases made the sport better.

Dunking was that way. The shot clock. The 3-point line. The DH (and yes, it's debatable but hardly the game-wrecker it was perceived to be). The pass-friendly rules of the NFL. The two-point conversion. Free agency and salary caps. The shift.

OK, strike that last one. The shift, to paraphrase what Larry Hockett told Crash about working at Sears, stinks. Bad.

Same with Name, Image and Likeness, in a lot of ways. Yes, it will bring monster change. Yes, players getting compensated in meaningful ways and in the open is a better system than players receiving scraps and doing it in dark parking lots or with $100 handshakes.

Yes, the failures of the NCAA leaders have left the questions outnumbering the answers and the shadows abundant, but that's on them more than the system that everyone saw coming for years.

And as a fan of college athletics, I fault those leaders and applaud the players for getting a seat at the financial table.

That said, if you are unaware of Senate Bill 1401 in the anything-but-great-state of California, then all of that over-the-top language I mentioned above, well, get ready to recycle it.

Bill 1401 is called the 'College Athlete Race and Gender Equity Acts' and it's the shark from "Jaws" to the NIL's Dory from "Finding Nemo" in terms of danger. If passed, SB 1401 will require all California colleges to share 50% of the annual revenues in football as well as men's and women's basketball with the athletes in a direct 'pay for play' model.

Oh there are line items and loopholes, but according to the story in the L.A. Times, after removing grant-and-aid given to each player, the cut for each scholarship USC football player would be $200,000 a year.

That would be close to $20 million from football revenue that the school athletic department uses for a variety of reasons, noble and less than so. Everything from funding non-revenue sports to paying coaches not to coach.

And if you are thinking, "Yeah, that's the Pac-12, that hardly counts; they don't play big-boy football." Well, if it becomes a legal line item, how often until Nick Saban does not like the recruiting edge USC has for those five-star QBs?

How long before a collection of Georgia athletes sue for equal treatment under Georgia law?

The original SB1401 has been amended to directly address that this is not 'pay for play' (tricky words to make it harder to lobby against) and removed Title IX allowances and any protection about possible cuts or elimination of non-revenue sports to make sure the bill is fully tuned on revenue sharing.

To make matters more murky, this hangs in the balance as the Pac-12 is about to renegotiate its media rights deal, which likely will be in the billions of dollars, which could make a very liberal state very sympathetic to the athletes.

Buckle up.

Contact Jay Greeson at and read his 5-at-10 column every Monday through Friday at 10 a.m. at

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