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College notebook: California governor signs SB 206, but will it impact college golf?

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During the college golf season, will check in weekly to update what’s happening in the world of college golf.

California governor Gavin Newsom made history Monday morning, signing into law SB 206, also known as the Fair Pay to Play Act.

Putting pen to paper live on LeBron James’ HBO show, “The Shop,” Newsom approved the bill, which, when it goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2023, will allow student-athletes, including golfers, at any of California’s 58 NCAA institutions to earn compensation for the use of their name, image and likeness.

The NCAA has long opposed this bill, with NCAA president Mark Emmert even going as far as to threaten to ban California schools from NCAA competition should this law be passed. Newsom, however, wasn’t deterred.

“I don’t want to say this is checkmate, but this is a major problem for the NCAA,” Newsom said on the show. “It’s going to initiate dozens of other states to introduce similar legislation, and it’s going to change college sports for the better.”

A day later, Florida joined the list of other states, which also includes New York and South Carolina, by introducing House Bill 251. The timeline of this proposal, though, is much more aggressive: If made law, it would go into effect on July 1, 2020.

Meanwhile, the NCAA continues to oppose SB 206 and other similar legislation.

“As a membership organization, the NCAA agrees changes are needed to continue to support student-athletes, but improvement needs to happen on a national level through the NCAA’s rules-making process,” the NCAA said in a statement Monday. “Unfortunately, this new law already is creating confusion for current and future student-athletes, coaches, administrators and campuses, and not just in California. We will consider next steps in California while our members move forward with ongoing efforts to make adjustments to NCAA name, image and likeness rules that are both realistic in modern society and tied to higher education.

“As more states consider their own specific legislation related to this topic, it is clear that a patchwork of different laws from different states will make unattainable the goal of providing a fair and level playing field for 1,100 campuses and nearly half a million student-athletes nationwide.”

So what does all of this mean – especially for college golf? Well, let’s start with the bill itself. SB 206 doesn’t allow schools to pay student-athletes directly but will allow student-athletes to market themselves, which means they’ll be able to sign endorsement deals (as long as the deal doesn’t conflict with their school’s preexisting contracts), hire agents, make money by signing autographs, host camps and much more. The law also prevents schools from punishing players who receive compensation and the NCAA from banning schools of these players from competition.

SB 206 clearly will impact mostly football and basketball players, and it will have marginal impact for college golfers as a whole, but the top stars could benefit greatly. They’ll be able to sign contracts with management, equipment and apparel companies without losing NCAA eligibility. (Imagine the money Cal’s Collin Morikawa could’ve made while in school.) Also, those not demanding sponsorship dollars could still earn money through camps and clinics, instructing junior golfers or possibly even through a successful trick-shot account on YouTube.

Even on the women’s side, a player like former USC standout Muni He, could’ve turned her six-digit social-media following into some cash.

There is one other hurdle, though, and it's specific to golfers: the USGA, which has its own set of rules of amateurism. There is a scenario where a player could be eligible to play college golf and not compete in amateur events such as the U.S. Amateur and Walker Cup. The USGA has yet to officially comment on the matter.

Fair Pay to Play Act: College players getting paid, fair or foul?

Fair Pay to Play Act: College players getting paid, fair or foul?

So who supports this and who doesn’t? California’s bill is obviously popular with the lawmakers, as SB 206 previously passed the state senate with a vote of 73-0. And bills like it are widely backed by the student-athletes, who for years have watched the NCAA, conferences and schools make billions of dollars while they saw none of it.

The main opposition, of course, is the NCAA, which still seems to have the support of the schools and conferences, including Stanford, USC and the Pac-12.

“The Pac-12 is disappointed in the passage of SB 206 and believes it will have very significant negative consequences for our student-athletes and broader universities in California,” the Pac-12 Conference said in a statement Monday. “This legislation will lead to the professionalization of college sports and many unintended consequences related to this professionalism. SB 206 imposes a state law that conflicts with national rules, will blur the lines for how California universities recruit student-athletes and compete nationally, and will likely reduce resources and opportunities for student-athletes in Olympic sports and have a negative disparate impact on female student-athletes.”

So what will happen? That part is uncertain, though it appears players will end up getting paid in the end.

The NCAA has its own working group on this matter, and that group is expected to finalize its recommendations this month. Michael Drake, chair on the NCAA’s board of governors, told that the NCAA wants to “evolve” and “modernize” its rules on compensation for name, image and likeness.

But California opted not to wait any longer, hoping that by creating their own law it would encourage other states to help put pressure on the NCAA to change its rules regarding student-athlete compensation.

If the NCAA’s working group comes back and its report supports the core principles of SB 206, then we could see universal rule changes. Newsom has already said he’s still willing to work with the NCAA on such a scenario. However, if the working group’s report stays consistent with the NCAA current stance on player compensation, then it could cause major headaches for all involved, especially if Florida passes its bill and other states pass their own legislation.

It’s unlikely the NCAA would actually ban schools that allow their players to be compensated because of TV deals and other economic factors. It’s more likely that the NCAA and these states reach some sort of common ground and adopt new rules for everyone.

This won’t happen overnight, but with California leading the charge, expect student-athletes to start getting paid for their name, image and likeness at some point in the next few years.

As for college golfers, specifically, they'll have to wait for not only the NCAA to take its final stance but also the USGA.

The five

1. New Mexico won its home event, the William H. Tucker Intercollegiate, on Saturday for the first time since 2015. But it was how the Lobos did it that grabbed headlines. After New Mexico and BYU finished 54 holes tied at 10 under, both teams played a five-count-four, sudden-death tiebreaker to determine the winner. The Lobos got birdies from all five players while the Cougars posted a score of 3 under – and the best part was it all was easily streamed via New Mexico’s Twitter account. This type of playoff is used at NCAA regionals, but the NCAA Championship uses a shotgun tiebreaker, where five twosomes tee off on different holes. From a viewing standpoint, having tiebreakers contested on one hole – though more time intensive – is certainly the better option, and New Mexico’s event was further proof.

2. BYU responded quickly to its playoff loss, winning the Nick Watney Invitational three days later by five shots. Senior Peter Kuest, who won the individual title at New Mexico, added another win, this time co-medalist honors alongside Long Beach State’s Hunter Epson.

3. After a seventh-place finish at the Annika, South Carolina looked more like the team that was ranked 10th in Golf Channel’s preseason rankings in winning the Windy City Collegiate. The Gamecocks closed in 5 under Tuesday to seal a three-shot victory over USC. The stacked field also included Florida (third), Arizona State (fourth) and reigning national champion Duke (fifth). Freshman Pauline Roussin-Bouchard should be considered among the early favorites for freshman of the year, as she followed her T-15 in Minnesota with a three-shot victory in Chicago. Roussin-Bouchard, who shot 7-under 65 on Monday to set a program freshman record, topped several All-Americans, including Florida’s Sierra Brooks (second), USC’s Jennifer Chang (T-3) and Duke’s Jaravee Boonchant (T-6).

4. The Stanford women cruised to victory in their fall opener, the Molly Collegiate Invitational, winning by 26 shots over Oregon. Just three individuals finished under par, all of them being Cardinal players – medalist Andrea Lee (6 under), freshman Angelina Ye (4 under) and Albane Valenzuela (2 under).

5. Louisville opened its fall with a pair of third-place finishes, but the Cardinals kicked it into gear at the Bearcat Invitational, shooting 37 under and winning by 26 shots over runner-up Arkansas. Some of the individual scores were staggering. Louisville teammates John Murphy and Matthias Schmid shot 17 under and 14 under, respectively, and the only other player better than 5 under was Illinois State’s David Perkins (11 under).

Tweet of the week

Some may call this a "deep-fried egg." One player from UC Davis drew a wicked lie in a bunker during the Molly Collegiate on Monday, and even the rules official had to take a photo of the embedded ball. It is unknown if the player received free relief, as the Rule 25-2 states that a player is only entitled to free relief if the ball is embedded in a "closely-mown area through the green." Of course, a local rule could have led to a different ruling, or the official could have determined the ball to be embedded in the face of the bunker and not the penalty area itself.

On tap

The men's slate is highlighted by Alabama's Jerry Pate National Intercollegiate, which will be played Monday-Tuesday. The women's side has fewer notable events this week, though Washington and Illinois will host their tournaments, each of which begin Monday.