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The Fair Pay to Play Act

Recent data strongly suggests the academic experiences of Division I student-athletes will suffer as a result of California’s new Fair Pay to Play Act, which, though well-intended, provides the wrong solution to student-athletes’ growing concern over economic accessibility and our educational system.

The law allows students to receive compensation for their likeness, but not directly from colleges and universities—and that is its biggest flaw, according to Jasmine Harris, an assistant professor of sociology.

“The time and energy required to make that money will likely further negatively impact student-athletes’ academic experiences,” Harris explains. “Compensation is not only justified, but in many cases it’s necessary. However, research clearly shows that having to earn that money through heavy promotional activity, without the support of their institution, might not be the best way to implement that change.”

In recent study of nearly 100 Division I football and men’s basketball players from across the “Power 5” conferences—the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Big Ten Conference, Big 12 Conference, Pac-12 Conference, and Southeastern Conference (SEC)—Harris consistently found:

  1. Student-athletes have difficulty managing their time, especially because academics usually takes the backseat
  2. Their self-reported grades are worse in-season (in comparison to off season)
  3. Their identity as student-athletes is complex, and there are astonishingly few support mechanisms in place to help them navigate the system
  4. Financial issues often come up as distractions, impeding class attendance

“We need to ask a straightforward question, and be prepared to address it honestly: Is anyone really looking out for their interests? The business model of collegiate athletics creates a troublesome conflict, one that draws little distinction between whether student athletes who fuel the public’s obsession are players, students … or pawns of an aggressive and unforgiving business model.”

Harris is conducted extensive research about compensation in Division I athletics. Her expertise has been recently featured on NBC10, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Business Insider, the Houston Chronicle, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and more.