BROOKLYN — If there’s anyone used to adapting to change within the college basketball landscape, then it’s Davidson head coach Bob McKillop, who has put together an illustrious 31-year head coaching career.
Yet one change might be unlike anything McKillop has faced before. This past September, California Governor Gavin Newsom passed the Fair Pay to Play Act, a bill which would not only allow collegiate athletes to profit off of their name, image and likeness for endorsement, but also hire agents. Since the California bill passed on Sept. 18, New York and South Carolina have put forth similar bills and U.S. Representative Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio) has prepared to present a nationwide bill to Congress. Should more states put forth similar name, image and likeness laws, the NCAA will enter uncharted territory.
Here is McKillop’s response:
I’m convinced that college athletes today should have an opportunity to have their image as a way to earn money. But I’m also convinced today that college athletes — especially Division I basketball players at the Power-5 or at our level — are very well-rewarded as scholarship athletes.
Let’s just say that I give you $70,000, $5,000 worth of equipment and $5,000 in extra meal money. I’m going to give you lessons in basketball. I’m going to let you travel in charter planes and stay in nice hotels. But here’s what you’ve gotta do: You’ve gotta play basketball for us, but you also have to pay your tuition, buy your books, you’ve gotta find your apartment, feed yourself, get your own insurance, take care of your doctor fees and you have to buy your equipment. Are you going to be able to use that money to do that very wisely? Probably not. But I’m giving you a pretty good deal by giving you that money, aren’t I?
I don’t think we understand it. The deal that kids get [is] pretty darn good. You take the average kid in America — that’s not a basketball player — that gets that deal on the first day of college, they’d be jumping through the roof. They’d think, ‘Wow, you’re giving this to me? And I’m getting that to play the sport that I love as the only responsibility I have to earn that? That’s pretty good.’
I don’t want to hear that college athletes aren’t getting paid, because they are. But I also think that they should be rewarded for who they are. Somehow, we have to find a common ground where the level playing field that the NCAA so much enforces can continue to be enforced amidst this possible thing that happened in California that might spread state-to-state.
McKillop took a common stance heard in coaching circles: that collegiate athletes are being paid not with a paycheck or a stipend, but with their tuition, scholarships and equipment. Yet unlike some of his peers, McKillop did say that he believed collegiate athletes should get the opportunity to profit off of their likeness.
To clarify, McKillop did say that allowing collegiate athletes to profit off of their name, image and likeness and paying college athletes in general are two separate things. He also expressed his concerns about how profiting off of name, image and likeness can create even more of an imbalance between the Power-5 schools and other institutions.
I think it’s going to make the level playing field more un-level. And maybe that’s the objective. And maybe that’s a point: Is it possible to have this many teams competing on a level playing field when there’s so many variations on what budgets are, what facilities are and what [coaching] staffs are and what compensation is?
Regardless of what the future of collegiate athletics holds, McKillop’s response to the bill illustrates the current crossroads of collegiate athletics. Not only will the NCAA have to adapt to current (and future) legislation, it will also have to maintain something resembling a level playing field amongst institutions that are anything but equal. Whether or not that happens remains to be seen.