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Democrat introduces bill to end competitive college football in California

Washington Examiner logo Washington Examiner 1/20/2023 Conn Carroll
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The University of Southern California Trojans spent a decade steeped in mediocrity after Head Coach Pete Carroll left the school to coach the Seattle Seahawks in 2010. Then it spent $45 million to lure Lincoln Riley away from the University of Oklahoma last winter, and boom: an 11-win season, a Heisman Trophy winner (from a player who followed Riley from Oklahoma to USC), and a trip to the Cotton Bowl.

The Trojans are back, baby.


But even with USC’s impending move to the Big Ten, that success will be extremely short-lived if California Assemblyman Chris Holden (D) gets his way.

Holden, who represents Pasadena, has introduced legislation that he is calling the College Athlete Protection Act, which would gut all non-revenue raising college athletics and cripple the ability of any California school to compete in football on the national stage.

Under Holden’s bill, all Division I schools would be forced to pay all of their scholarship athletes their “fair market value.” What is each athlete’s fair market value, you ask? According to Holden, each student athlete is worth an equal share of half their team’s annual revenue, minus the cost of their scholarships.

So let’s say Trojan football earned $100 million and the Trojan football team had 50 scholarship players. That would mean every player, from Heisman Trophy winning Caleb Williams to the backup punter, would each get $1 million. That’s their “fair market value,” according to Holden.

Using real numbers from UCLA, Sports Illustrated estimates that in 2019, if Holden’s legislation had been law, UCLA men’s basketball players would have gotten $389,000 each, football players $185,000 each, women’s gymnastics $5,500, women’s volleyball $871. And no one else would have gotten anything — not even women’s basketball, which did not earn revenues high enough to trigger payments under the legislation.

Good luck getting those results past Title IX regulators.

Oh, but it gets even better. College athletics are not like for-profit businesses. Excess profits don’t go into the owners' pockets. There are no owners. Football and basketball revenues go to pay coaches' salaries and subsidize each school's non-revenue earning sports. So for every dollar Holden’s legislation transfers from the athletic department to revenue-raising athletes, that is a dollar taken from either a coach (like Lincoln Riley) or a fellow athlete — perhaps a women’s softball player or a wrestler.

Ahhh… but Holden has anticipated this! If just one coach at a school makes more than $500,000 a year, his legislation suspends the athletic director for three years if he eliminates sports to help pay for the new player revenue sharing system.

The line in the legislation is $500,000 a year. Riley is making almost $10 million.

So if Holden’s legislation became law, athletic directors would face a tough choice: either get suspended, or cut all coaches' salaries to just $500,000 a year.

Now for us mere mortals, $500,000 is a ton of money. But when it comes to attracting the coaching talent needed to compete on a national level, it’s virtually non-existent. As Riley's tenure suggests, that is far below his market value.


If Holden’s legislation became law, and survived Title IX scrutiny, there would be a mass exodus of coaching talent from all California college football programs. It would be the end of USC.

As a Fighting Irish fan myself, all I can say is, "Fight on Holden! Fight on!”


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Tags: Opinion, College Football, California, Democratic Party

Original Author: Conn Carroll

Original Location: Democrat introduces bill to end competitive college football in California


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