In the rush to celebrate California Gov. Gavin Newsom signing the Fair Pay to Play Act into law — allowing college athletes in the state to be compensated for endorsements and the like, starting in 2023 — most pundits are failing to realize this is not as wonderful as it seems.

Everybody is treating this broadside against the hypocritical, dictatorial NCAA as the greatest thing since sliced bread.

(To be honest, I never understood why sliced bread was considered that big of a breakthrough. What’s so hard about buying a loaf of bread and then slicing it at home? Heck, the knife was a big deal and, frankly, the spork — half spoon, half fork — was ingenious.)*


(* It’s amazing how often I get off track. It’s among the many reasons I am not ever taken seriously for Pulitzer, Peabody or Nobel consideration.)


Sure, it’s always a good day when the big, bad NCAA is leveled. What do we know about the NCAA? It acts as if it’s the fourth branch of government, accountable to no one except its accountants, and it has really, really nice offices in Indianapolis.

The NCAA, naturally, strongly opposed this new law; it was also opposed to indoor plumbing and freeway exits.

The NCAA’s position on this development — college athletes will be able to endorse products, host sports camps, sign memorabilia or autographs for money, attach their names to video games, etc. — is best reflected by the response of the Pac-12 Conference: “This legislation will lead to the professionalization of college sports.”


Oh, please. Everything about NCAA football and men’s basketball is professional, with the sole exception that its labor force is unpaid and Dick Vitale never stops shouting.


I would sum up the NCAA’s modus operandi as the following: The rich get richer, and everyone else eats ramen.

Technically, the Fair Pay to Play Act is progress. In the old days, a school might sell a prospect on the quality of its football program, the quality of its education, the quality of the region, etc. Now a school might woo a prospect with all of that plus the possibility of, say, a local Chevy dealer who is willing to pay a lot for a business relationship with the starting quarterback.


Yes, this is the free market at work. But it’s not as free and simple as that.

California is often a punchline and is often a pacesetter. In this case, it’s both.

Is it possible to take a step in the right and wrong direction at the same time?

(Note: I ask myself that every time I walk down the matrimonial aisle.)


We are casting an erroneously wide net while trying to solve our college athletics problem.

By the way — and I promise this is the last tangential interruption — why are Newsom and the California state legislature even treading in these waters? I can think of 400, maybe 405 more pressing issues at the moment in the sometimes not-so-Golden State in which I live.


So why wouldn’t colleges align themselves with companies and local retailers that can assure large payments for the best athletes? Why wouldn’t third parties — boosters — engage in licit and illicit behavior to pave the yellow brick road for the home team? Wouldn’t some high schools start down this path to bring in better athletic talent?

A student-athlete certainly should have the right to assess his or her best deal financially, but I again return to a basic premise: Why are institutions of higher education trafficking in these areas?


As always, I lean on former University of Chicago president Robert Maynard Hutchins for wisdom: “A student can win 12 letters at a university without learning to write one.”


Beyond the fact that we are creating another level of potential impropriety and corruption, where exactly in the mission statement for most universities is the part about running sporting events for profit?

This entire unholy business stands as a complete incongruity to a university’s raison d’etre. What, you don’t comprehend raison d’etre? That’s because you went to a school that prioritized basketball over books, and you’ve spent every autumn Saturday since 1993 watching “College GameDay.”

Let me wrap it up this week with my favorite antiquated, oldie-but-goodie sentiment: Build more libraries, not stadiums.

Ask The Slouch

Q. When somebody tells somebody else “you can’t hold my jockstrap,” what does that mean? (Nathan Margolis; Albany, N.Y.)


A. I guess you’ve never tried to hold somebody else’s jockstrap.

Q. Saints linebacker Demario Davis wears a “Man of God” headband. What would your headband read? (Brian Coffman; Gaithersburg, Md.)

A. “Best by 12-17-96.”

Q. I do not understand the crux of this NBA-China dust-up. Do you? (Scott Ayres; Houston)

A. I don’t, either, but I love the word “crux.”

Q. Is Daniel Snyder the Peter Angelos of the NFL, or is Peter Angelos the Daniel Snyder of Major League Baseball? (Mary Lafsky; Great Falls, Va.)

A. Pay the lady, Shirley.