College athletes in California move closer to compensation (and Tim Tebow doesn’t like it)

Mike Florio

The passage of the Fair Pay to Play Act by the California Senate didn’t generate much national buzz this week. Tim Tebow’s misguided reaction to it did.

The bill that, when signed into law by California Governor Gavin Newsome, will give college athletes the right to earn money from the names, images and likenesses, sparked a strong reaction by one of the greatest college football players of all time, pro careers notwithstanding.

“I knew going to Florida, my dream school, where I wanted to go, the passion for it, and if I could support my team, support my college, support my university, that’s what it’s all about,” Tim Tebow said on ESPN’s First Take, via Jacob Bogage of the Washington Post. “But now we’re changing it from us, from we, from my university, from being an alumni where I care, which makes college football and college sports special, to then, okay, it’s not about us, it’s not about we, it’s just about me. And yes, I know we live in a selfish culture where it’s all about us, but we’re just adding and piling on to that where it changes what’s special about college football.

“That’s why people are more passionate about college sports than they are the NFL. That’s why the stadiums are bigger in college than they are in the NFL, because it’s about your team. It’s about your university. It’s about where my family wanted to go. It’s about where my grandfather had a dream of seeing Florida win an SEC championship, and you’re taking that away so that young kids can earn a dollar, and that’s just not where I feel like college football needs to go. There’s that opportunity in the NFL, but not in college football.”

But, Tim, only a fraction of college football players ever get that opportunity in the NFL. Besides, everyone else connected to college sports is getting a taste of all that money, while the players hide in the corner and nibble on their snacks.

Tebow’s comments prompted widespread criticism, as they should have. At best, he’s incredibly naive. At worst, he’s willingly defending however he can the college football machine that preserves and protects a corrupt system that ensures those who sell the college football broadcasting rights to ESPN continue to get their full cut of the pie — and that creates opportunities for every college football broadcaster at ESPN to make money from their own endorsement deals without having to compete with, you know, the players.

Jay Bilas is also part of that machine, from the standpoint of ESPN’s coverage of college basketball. But Bilas didn’t flinch at telling it like it is.

“I think it’s immoral for college athletes to be told they’re worth nothing when they’re not worth nothing,” Bilas told the Post. “They’re worth billions. This train is rolling down the tracks toward compensation and the NCAA’s response is, ‘Let’s lash the players to the tracks and tell lawmakers they’ll be hurting the student athletes.’ That’s simply not true.”

The NCAA has suggested that California schools won’t be eligible for championships, and that the bill is unconstitutional because California lacks the jurisdiction . . . to regulate the colleges in its own state.

Bilas also had a direct message for Tebow, who passionately championed the virtues of playing college football for no pay.

“Tim could choose to work for free at ESPN, if he wants to,” Bilas told the Post. “That doesn’t mean I should work for free. An individual choice does not justify the policy.”

Exactly. For every Tebow who doesn’t need or want the money, there are plenty of kids who fall into the “my family could really use it” and/or the “well, you see, I’m a capitalist” categories. If kids want to continue to be exploited by a system that generates billions while paying them bupkis (other than the wholesale cost of an education, which is far, far less than the retail price that no one ever pays), that’s their choice. If kids want to get a little something for their efforts — even if it means siphoning a chunk of the raw profit that, for example, Florida generated with all those 15 jerseys — they should be able to do that, too.

Bilas wasn’t alone in questioning Tebow. Via Jay Rigdon of AwfulAnnouncing.com, Keith Olbermann, Mina Kimes, and Mike Golic also chimed in.

Here’s the bottom line: The NCAA and many of those connected to the game of college football have been stealing the eggs from the golden geese for decades. The closer we get to the reckoning, the harder and they’ll fight against change.