Juan Dixon would have welcomed the chance to collect a few extra dollars when he starred at Maryland. But a couple decades later, eagerness has been replaced by reservation for the coach of the Coppin State men’s basketball program.
Dixon was one of several men’s and women’s coaches at the Baltimore Basketball Media Day hosted by Coppin State who coolly entertained the notion of allowing student-athletes to profit while competing in college sports.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill Sept. 30 that outlaws colleges and universities in the state from preventing their athletes from making money off ventures such as endorsements and autograph signings. The schools will not pay the students outright, but players will be permitted to hire agents and pursue business deals based on entities using their name, image and likeness rights.
“Will everyone have the same opportunities for earning the same amount of money? That’s the key,” Dixon, the Baltimore native and Calvert Hall graduate, said Tuesday. “All student-athletes earn scholarships. I think it can be a good thing, but if it’s not fair across the board, that’s where I think we could have some issues.”
The NCAA has spent nearly $150 million in legal fees over the past three years, and would likely need to spend millions more to fight the Fair Pay to Play Act, which is set to take effect in 2023. But by the end of last week, legislators in at least 10 states said they would follow suit, and hours before Tuesday’s media day, Duke men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski told CBS that he supported Newsom’s signing of the bill.
“We need to stay current with what’s happening,” said Krzyzewski, who has coached several high-profile players and future NBA stars who could benefit from such a law in his 39 seasons with the Blue Devils. "I’m glad it was passed because it pushes the envelope, it pushes the issue.”
UMBC men’s coach Ryan Odom questioned how mid-major and smaller schools would be able to compete with the universities in Power 5 conferences that could offer greater financial gains for student-athletes.
“You’d hate for it impact schools that are not financially at the same level as some of the others that are at the highest level,” said Odom, who started for four years on the basketball team at Hampden-Sydney.
Loyola Maryland men’s basketball coach Tavaras Hardy said his concern is that programs in California and other states that adopt similar laws will attract the top recruits and leave programs in Maryland and other states behind.
“You can’t have fair competition if one state has a different rule than another state,” said Hardy, a two-time Big Ten selection at Northwestern who speculated that money in college might “devalue” a college degree in the eyes of certain interviewers in the professional work environment. “So I hope the NCAA comes up with something that is right and fair, and whatever that may be, I hope everyone is satisfied and happy, which I doubt will happen.”
Towson women’s coach Diane Richardson said she has a simple response when athletes approach her about getting paid.
“I’ve always said that for every student-athlete on a scholarship, that’s your pay,” said Richardson, who played at Frostburg State. “Your parents could write a check for $60,000, but you’re getting a scholarship, and it’s kind of a business arrangement already. The arguments are out there, and obviously the big schools get more out of their athletes from a marketing standpoint. But I don’t know that it’s going to be healthy for everybody.”
It is unclear how the legislation would impact service academies, which are under the auspices of their respective armed forces. Navy men’s basketball coach Ed DeChellis said he understands helping those student-athletes who “aren’t well-to-do,” but said money from business ventures would blur the separation between amateurs and professionals.
“I don’t know where the line is,” he said. “Where’s the pro line and where’s the amateur line? That’s for someone above me and my pay grade to try to figure out where that line is.”
Even student-athletes who attended the media day were split. UMBC senior guard K.J. Jackson said he has been discussing the issue with family members, teammates and a guidance counselor and said the conversations have spawned more questions than answers.
Loyola Maryland senior guard Chuck Champion said dangling the chance to earn a few dollar signs in front of potential recruits would tip the scales towards the schools that can make that kind of offer.
“I think California’s going to be landing a lot of recruits, the top guys, because of the opportunity to get paid,” he said. “Depending on how my career would go at either school, I probably would lean towards California just because of the chance I could get paid.”
Morgan State men’s coach Kevin Broadus, who played one season at Grambling State before transferring to Bowie State, said he is “in the middle,” but ultimately sided with the student-athletes.
“I do see where some things do need to be changed for student-athletes because we can’t be selfish and be all about ourselves,” said Broadus, who recently served as an assistant under Mark Turgeon at Maryland. “We have to look at the welfare of these student-athletes, and that’s why I can go either way. But I hope they do something for them.”
Maryland is not one of the states yet considering adopting legislation similar to California’s. One state lawmaker’s attempt to give college athletes the right to unionize was eventually changed to create a panel to study guaranteeing fair treatment for those athletes.
But Coppin State redshirt junior guard DeJuan Clayton said he hopes future generations of student-athletes can reap some type of financial gain.
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“I’m definitely in favor of it because we put a ton of work in that goes unnoticed,” he said. “I think it would be great for us to earn a little bit.”